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Fear and fascination: Use and perceptions of New York City’s forests, wetlands, and landscaped park areas

Formally Refereed
Authors: Nancy Falxa Sonti, Lindsay K. Campbell, Erika S. Svendsen, Michelle L. Johnson, D.S. Novem Auyeung
Year: 2020
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Northern Research Station
Source: Urban Forestry & Urban Greening


In addition to their role as critical ecological resources, the forests and wetlands of urban parks are integral to the social and psychological well-being of many city residents. In this study, we use randomized field interviews with 955 New York City park users to explore differences in park use and motivations for park visitation according to site type and gender of respondents. We find that natural areas offer different experiences and social meanings to park visitors compared to the ballfields, lawns, and playgrounds of landscaped areas. Visitors to urban forests and wetlands are more likely to value a sense of refuge, place attachment, and the opportunity to experience nature, while those in landscaped areas are drawn to a particular park quality or activity. Park users who do not visit natural areas cite their preferences for landscaped park areas as well as specific concerns that these sites of wild urban nature are not safe or accessible for themselves or their children. Our research also reveals differences in the ways that women and men use urban parks and perceive urban natural areas. Women are more likely to visit parks with children and are less likely to visit natural areas than men. In addition, people who participate in environmental stewardship groups are more likely to visit urban natural areas than those who do not engage in stewardship. These results provide context for urban natural resource managers, as they seek to enhance park access, visitor experience, and perceptions of safety for all park users.


Urban parks and recreation, Urban wildlands, Perceptions of nature, Gender, Park use motivations


Sonti, Nancy Falxa; Campbell, Lindsay K.; Svendsen, Erika S.; Johnson, Michelle L.; Novem Auyeung, D.S. 2020. Fear and fascination: Use and perceptions of New York City's forests, wetlands, and landscaped park areas. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. 49: 126601. 10 p.