by PH Gobster

Landscape and Urban Planning 41(1):43–55


Recent work by Solecki and Welch (1995) suggests that parks located between communities differing in race often develop into barriers, or “green walls.” Their study used the condition of trees to draw the conclusion that the parks became “green walls”, resulting in a lack of use and maintenance, as well as community neglect; thereby eventually lowering the amenity value of the park. However, the author of the current paper raises questions over the methods and assumptions of Solecki and Welch, suggesting social science research methods to study how the parks are perceived by the people. In order to clarify both conceptual and methodological issues related to parks acting as green walls, the author reviews the ways in which barriers are perceived, experienced, measured and explored. An analysis of the logic and method used to support parks acting as barriers reveals better ways to test and understand possible blockages to utilization of parks located in racially diverse neighborhoods. Research conducted in Chicago exemplifies such alternative methods and measures that might better explain the perception and experience of racially defined barriers to neighborhood park access. Specifically, a case study of Chicago’s Warren Park illustrates a counter example of a boundary park acting as more of a “green magnet” than a “green wall” by serving as an active agent in mitigating interracial relations. With more research on the provision of open space opportunities in socio-economically diverse urban areas, it may be possible to assure boundary parks function as green magnets instead of green walls.


Region: Chicago, Illinois
Publication Type: Journal article
Keywords: parks, race and ethnicity, socioeconomics, and urban nature