Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Landscape Architecture


Landscape Architecture

First Advisor

Pat D. Taylor


This thesis is a study of the public perceptions of urban community park benefits and the identity they foster among people. It addresses the conjecture that parks, by encouraging self-expression through interaction and use, contribute to the identity of a place(Garvin 2000). Identity is a way of organizing information about the self (Clayton and Opotow 2003) and perception is an experience which is occasioned by the stimulation of sense organs (Dennis 1951). These have practical implications on research. Understanding people's response to their surroundings leads to an understanding of perceptions of self and community. Park benefits are gained through interaction among people and the surrounding environment. Activities which form these benefits include social connections, health of mind and body, restorative setting, recreation and environmental education (Clayton and Opotow 2003; Garvin 2000; Taylor 1999). This research study examines the perceptions of users and designers regarding three classifications of park benefits: Public health; social, and economic (Sherer 2003; More et al 1988).The literature review examines the existing knowledge base of open space and park use and their benefits from established reports, for example, Journal of Landscape Research (JLR) and Trust for Public Land (TPL), with design program data for each park; as extracted from the 2004 Arlington Parks Recreation and Open Space Master Plan, and the Hike and Bike System Master Plan for the City of Arlington, Texas. The study then ties these data to the three park benefits of public health, social, and economic. In so doing, the study also provides an understanding of the elements regarding identity and the environment (Lindholm 2007; Kaplan and Kaplan 1998; Clayton and Opotow 2003). This research uses qualitative data collection and analysis techniques--observable behavior and interviews (Taylor and Bogdan 1998)--with data gathered from interviews with landscape architects and park and recreation professionals involved in three chosen parks in Arlington, Texas. The three community parks selected for the study include a linear community park, a large community park, and a campus community park. These parks are the River legacy Park, Veteran's Park and the Green at College Park. Data from park visitors was included to determine user perceptions regarding the three park benefits. Data collected from these observations and interviews revealed the qualitative effects of public park spaces on individuals as executed by park designers. The resultant finding measures user perceptions and expands the understanding of the role of landscape architects in fostering that link. The findings appear to agree with the literature reviewed for this research. The public health benefits and economic benefits were identified by park users as the main attractions of the parks studied; these tie into information gleaned from the literature review.


Architecture | Landscape Architecture


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington