New Recreational Facilities for the Young and the Old in Los Angeles
Policy and Programming Implications
Published In: Journal of Public Health Policy, v. 30, Suppl. 1, Jan. 2009, p. S248-S263
It is assumed that higher quality recreation facilities promote physical activity and serve communities better. The authors tested this assumption by comparing changes in the use of an expanded and renovated skate park (a facility for skateboarding) and a modernized senior citizen's center to two similar facilities that were not refurbished. The skate park was nearly tripled in size, and the senior center was remodeled and received new exercise equipment, a courtyard garden, and modern architectural features. The authors assessed use of these facilities through direct observation and surveyed both facility users and residents living within 2 miles of each facility. The authors found that making improvements to facilities alone will not always guarantee increased use. Although there was a 510% increase in use of the expanded skate park compared to a 77% increase in the comparison skate park, the senior center had substantially fewer users and provided fewer hours of exercise classes and other programmed activities after the facility was renovated. The implication of our study is that use results from a complex equation that includes not only higher quality recreation facilities but also programming, staffing, fees, hours of operation, marketing, outreach, and perhaps a host of other human factors.