Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


Exercise Science

First Advisor

Sara Wilcox


Background: Parks play an important role in physical activity (PA) promotion strategies. Yet little is known about park use in rural settings, or the effectiveness of strategies for increasing park visibility and use. Purpose: The goals of this study were to: (1) document park use and park and neighborhood environments in six parks located in financially disadvantaged, rural communities in South Carolina, (2) examine how park characteristics were associated with park use, and (3) examine the impact of an awareness campaign on park use. Methods: Park use was measured in May 2010, October 2010, and May 2011 with the System for Observing Play And Recreation in Communities Instrument. The park environment was measured with the Physical Activity Resource Assessment Instrument, and the neighborhood environment surrounding each park was measured with the Neighborhood Attribute Inventory Instrument. The awareness campaign consisted of single one-and-a-half hour events taking place at each park, with media efforts being used to promote the events. May 2010 and October 2010 park use and park and neighborhood environment characteristics were documented. The relationship between target area characteristics and target area use, and differences in park use between May 2010 and May 2011 were examined. Results: 97 people were observed across all parks in May 2010, and 116 in October 2010. Undesirable park and neighborhood environment characteristics were observed. There was an overall significant positive association (p = 0.03) between number of incivilities and target area use (OR = 1.91, 95% CI: 1.09-3.38). Although attendance at awareness campaign events was high (N = 629), park use was significantly greater in May 2010 than in May 2011 (97 versus 84 users, χ 2 = 4.69, p = 0.03), indicating a 13.4% decrease in park use from baseline to post awareness campaign. Conclusion: The low park use observed in May 2010 and October 2010 may be due to low park quality index scores, undesirable neighborhood characteristics, and park accessibility issues. The low park use observed post awareness campaign may be due to limitations in the awareness campaign, including its low intensity and a lack of park use and PA promotion strategies.


© 2012, Jorge Armando Banda