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Comparing Green Space Inequality and Planning Regimes Across the Denver Metropolitan Area

Authors: Joshua Baldwin*, University of Denver
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Urban Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: green space, environmental justice, regional planning, Denver
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

A multitude of environmental, social, health, and engineering benefits are provided by urban green space such as parks and green infrastructure. Recent studies suggest green spaces are not always provisioned evenly in cities, with access often stratified along socio-demographic lines. People of color are especially likely to live in “park deserts” – a growing environmental justice concern. As cities look to invest significant resources into sustainability programs and green space amenities, it’s essential that these public goods benefit not just affluent neighborhoods and the neoliberal growth machine, but all residents equally. Dating back to the 1970s, the Colorado Front Range has been a national leader in regional planning and smart growth; yet the environmental and equity outcomes of these initiatives remain unknown. Using census block groups and demographic information, I calculated green space inequalities – proximity and acreage – for the three largest municipalities in the Denver Metropolitan Area. Correlation analysis revealed numerous disparities of concern. For example: 1) Denver’s minority and low income populations have better proximity to green spaces, while their white and high income counterparts have access to more area of green space; 2) Lakewood’s minority and low income populations have relatively poor access to green space proximity and area. In order to explicate these disparities, I interviewed employees from each municipality and reviewed planning documents related to green space and social equality (parks department, public works, sustainability, community development, etc.). This paper presents examples of how each municipality’s planning regimes have influenced green space outcomes.

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