Association of Marketing Theory and Practice Proceedings 2011


Tales of Two Parks: The Promotion Efforts to Promote Healthy Lifestyles Using Community Open Spaces

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Conference Track

Public Policy and Public Marketing

Publication Date



In recent years, communities across the country have realized that urban growth must incorporate open spaces to meet the expectations of a "livable" community. In addition, parks and open spaces help the local economy through higher property values which in turn helps local governments with increased property tax values (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2010). In determining the rankings for best places to live, retire and work – “quality of life” makes up a large portion of the formula (Taylor 2008) and always includes the built and natural environment and how these two have been effectively woven together to make the ideal community. Quality of living is always important in studies of the "Best" and "Worst" places to live, work, raise kids, that are often printed in publications such as Fast Forward, Inc. and Money magazine ( 2008). Being on a list of the "Best Places" brings positive exposure and interest to a community.

Along with quality of living, increasingly, studies report on the overall healthiness of its citizens, measured by various elements but often dependent upon the availability of sports and recreational activities (Mercer LLC 2010). The availability of recreational resources is one of several important environmental factors that influence individuals’ physical activity behaviors (Roux et al 2007). Many studies support the causal link between a community’s built environment, i.e. its design, form and uses, and physical activity (Handy 1996; Berrigan and Troiano 2002; Cervero and Duncan 2003; Krizek 2003; Lee and Moudon 2006). The major predictor of park use, trail use, and leisure exercise is residential proximity to a park (Barton 2009; Cohen et al 2007: Troped et al. 2001). Individuals who live within one mile of an urban park are four times more likely to visit a park than those who live further away.

In addition to proximity, perceived urban trail safety and neighborhood connectivity significantly influence trail use (Wolch et al 2010). More aesthetically pleasing parks with such amenities as tree-lined paths stimulate physical activity (Corti et al. 1997) and certain features encourage more physical activity. While physical activity might be the main use of such urban trails, other studies show a more holistic motivation. Bichis-Lupas and Moisey (2001) found that only 4% of trail users were solely concerned with fitness; most of the users were interested in a combination of benefits including social, spiritual and physical.

In several recent polls (Forbes 2010; CNBC) Memphis was in the top 10 in “Worst Cities to Live in America” and “America’s Most Miserable Cities”. Memphis owns the title of most sedentary city and the country’s most obese. In 2007, the grassroots plan for creating a “Green Memphis” became public discussion for the construction of two greenways – the Wolf River Greenway and the Greater Memphis Greenline. The goal of the Greater Memphis Greenline was for an individual to be able to walk or bike from downtown through the city of Memphis to Cordova or Germantown a distance of some 20 miles and connect with the Wolf River Greenway, the Germantown Greenway and Shelby Farms. The Greenline became reality in October 2010 using an abandoned CSX railroad track.

Milledgeville, GA and its surrounding community of just over 45,000 has yet to make it on a Top 100 "Best Places" listing, but can be compared across other communities using the same types of information (Sperling 2010). Like many communities, Milledgeville suffers from a walking problem; people would rather drive than walk. The downtown and university district is one-half mile from the Oconee River Greenway. Initiated in 2002, the Greenway's primary mission, was to create a corridor along the river that would "integrate local economic benefits, increased public use and resource protection and enhancement" (ORGA 2006). Efforts are currently being taken to link via a bike trail, the University's West campus, through the main downtown campus and on to the Greenway. Unlike in the "Field of Dreams", building will not be sufficient to get people to use the bike trail or the greenway.

This research examines the efforts of communities to promote their quality of living and encourage citizens to engage in healthier lifestyles through the use of public provide spaces such as parks and greenways. These efforts will be compared to the efforts of the two communities of Memphis and Milledgeville. Both communities currently suffer from a sedentary population.

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