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Public green spaces, their use, and their accessibility are all crucial indicators of the state of life in urban areas. These spaces can signify the socioeconomic wellbeing of neighborhoods and cities, and often reflect trends accordingly; in one such case, Rehling et al. found in a study in German urban areas that those living at lower socioeconomic levels are often farther from green spaces than those at higher ones.[1] Perhaps unsurprisingly, access to these spaces is also often an indicator of personal physical health. Rundle et al. found that adults in New York City who lived closer to large park areas were more likely on average to have healthier body mass indexes (BMIs).[2] Trends in public recreational space usage even have significant implications for racial equality; as Lee et al. note, “[p]eople of color are less likely to use public parks and recreation programs” than many of their white neighbors, and municipal recreation departments have begun the work of reaching out to these communities accordingly.[3]Research like this makes clear that beyond just the physical benefits of public space use, such spaces can also act as tools by which to gauge the civic health of urban areas. Little research, however, centers specifically on the political implications of recreational space use, particularly as it relates to urban areas in North America, from city centers to edge cities to mid-size cities. To this end, I undertook this project in the hopes of seeing what relationship, if any, existed between the use of public recreational spaces, particularly outdoor ones such as parks, and civic engagement (voting, contacting elected officials, etc.) in Boston and the Gateway Cities, which together comprise the bulk of Massachusetts’s urban locales.


Political Science

Thesis Comittee

Dr. Melinda Tarsi, Thesis Advisor

Dr. Inkyoung Kim, Committee Member

Dr. John Kucich, Committee Member

Copyright and Permissions

Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.