Enhancing Parks for Public Health

You can learn more about the Active Living Trails story by reading this Dialogue post by Dotte Agency, or this longer post on its website.

Dotte Agency is a community design collaborative in Wyandotte County, Kansas. Throughout Summer 2017, it worked with community partners to design, fabricate, and install new signage and built elements (including seesaws, picture frames, and porch/benches) in two underserved neighborhood parks. As part of our Open Call: Proposals for Public Life, Gehl Institute provided technical assistance to help Dotte Agency answer the question: do improvements that encourage physical activity impact perceptions of access to health in the parks?

Dotte Agency conducted a weeklong baseline study, followed by a post-intervention study a month later. During the former, the team developed an interactive magnetic board based on the 12 Quality Criteria tool. Visitors of all ages could identify which sections of the park they enjoyed or disliked, and what changes they wanted to see where. The most valuable part of the process turned out to be the dialogue between designers and park users. It gave Dotte Agency a greater sense of how the park is used and perceived, and what kinds of interventions might have the most positive impact.

Members of the Parkwood Colony Neighborhood Association engage with a map of their park.

Next, Dotte Agency introduced signage with encouraging messages in English and Spanish (for example, “Walk, jog, or run: Exercise is free medicine”) and worked with YouthBuild KCK to develop the seesaws, porch/benches, and other physical elements. The team conducted a second public life survey to evaluate the results.

Signage shared evidence-based public health messaging to encourage walkers.