Though park presence and access disparities are well studied for their associations with physical activity (PA), disparities in the availability and quality of amenities and facilities within parks have been infrequently examined.
Five hundred forty-three parks from 472 block groups in the Seattle, WA and Baltimore, MD regions were audited using the Environmental Assessment of Public Recreation Spaces (EAPRS) to assess presence and quality (e.g., condition, cleanliness) of amenities (e.g., restrooms, seating) and facilities (e.g., fields, courts). General linear model regressions investigated Census 2000-derived neighborhood race/ethnicity and income main effect and interactive relationships with 7 park quality summary scores: 1) trails, 2) open space, 3) sports facilities, 4) PA facilities count, 5) PA facilities quality, 6) aesthetics, and 7) overall amenities, controlling for park size. The regions were analyzed separately due to differing race/ethnicity distributions.
In the Seattle region, neighborhood income was significantly negatively associated with sports quality score (p < .043), PA facilities total count (p < .015) and the overall amenities quality score (p < .004) (unexpected direction). In the Baltimore region, neighborhood race/ethnicity (percent White/non-Hispanic) was significantly positively related to the open spaces quality score (p < .011) (expected direction). A significant income-by-race/ethnicity interaction was found for PA facilities quality (p = .014), with high-percent minority neighborhoods having higher quality parks in high- vs. low-income neighborhoods, yet was opposite in mostly White/non-Hispanic neighborhoods. The other income-by-race/ethnicity interaction was for overall amenities quality score (p = .043), where scores in high-percent minority neighborhoods were best in high- vs. low-income neighborhoods. There was little difference in scores within mostly White or mixed neighborhoods by income.
Patterns of association of neighborhood race/ethnicity and income with park qualities differed between regions. In the Seattle region, "equitable differences" were found, where lower income neighborhoods had better park quality on average. In the Baltimore region, park quality was more consistently negatively associated with income and race/ethnic diversity, and complex interactions of race/ethnicity by income were detected. These findings emphasize the need to explore other factors that may explain variations in park quality, like local policy, citizen involvement in park decision-making, park funding and allocation, sources of funding and park priorities.