Can urban parks bridge deep divides? Assessing the effects of inter-racial social interaction in parks and public spaces on trust

Lauren E. Mullenbach, Andrew J. Mowen, Birgitta Lynne Baker, Sonja A. Wilhelm Stanis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability of urban parks and public spaces to address distrust and social isolation needs to be rigorously tested, as the predominance of such claims may crowd out discussions of environmental racism and structural inequality. This study tested some commonly stated claims about parks’ influence on social well-being using a survey of residents in St. Louis, Missouri. We tested relationships between park and public space visitation frequency, positive and negative social contact with people of other races/ethnicities, and trust, using structural equation modeling. The model had strong fit but had few significant paths, indicating assertions are not fully supported by our data. Recommendations for urban park planners, managers, and community advocates include improving the design and planning process to accommodate diverse users, as well as modifying their discourse to reflect the growing need for social equity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Leisure Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management

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