Addressing imbalance in park distribution and accessibility in disadvantaged neighborhoods

Erin M. Tharp


This thesis will critically study the issue of socio-economic class based inequitable distribution of landscape / recreational resources based on the context of Knoxville. The preliminary study indicates that areas such as Sequoyah Hills and Island Homes are established neighborhoods that speak of safety and security. These areas are predominantly white and house educated, white-collar individuals. There are large, well-maintained parks, with sidewalks, and trails in these neighborhoods and community members take an active stand when it comes to taking care of these areas. This can be seen by the recent revitalization of the Sequoyah Hills Walking Trail, which is in direct contrast to areas such as Riverview and Mechanicsville. While these neighborhoods are just as established, they are viewed as unsafe and off limits because of high crime rates and neighborhood demographics, which will be reviewed. High levels of poverty and a greater percentage of minorities as shown by the U.S. Census, also add to the undesirability of these neighborhoods. The city has located pocket parks with playgrounds and basketball courts in these neighborhoods but they still lack access to large tracts of open space with multiple recreational facilities. And most of these neighborhoods fall short of the recommended 6 acres of close-to-home parks for every 1000 residents.

Based on the Principles of Environmental Justice, this thesis critically reviews the underlying causes of this inequitable distribution and aims to address it through a combination of long term planning strategies, such as site location and brownfield reclamation, and short-term ecological and educational design recommendations.