Current Research Projects


The overall purpose of my dissertation is to understand the 1) discourses prevalent in urban park praxis, 2) the messaging of media coverage of urban park projects, and 3) the alignment of the first two with empirical evidence from urban park users and non-users. This multi-scalar project begins with a critical discourse analysis at the national level, followed by a comparative thematic analysis of news articles about park investments in three cities, and concludes with a single-city study of park users and non-users.

  • Article 1: Discourse analysis of messaging about urban parks and other public spaces

    • Current dominant voices in urban park praxis may be pushing an inordinately positive message, potentially distracting from discussions of equity issues and gentrification.

    • I have gathered news articles, blog entries, and other documents from urban park professionals to analyze the text using a Foucauldian-style approach under an environmental justice and power lens:

      • What are the main discourse functions in these materials? — What rhetorical tools are being used to push the main message?

      • What claims are being made about what park use can provide for people and communities?

    • Non-dominant discourses reporting research on the social, health, and economic impacts of urban park development are also being analyzed.

      • Sources include issue briefs, policy briefs, and reports from think tanks and nonprofit organizations

  • Article 2: Comparative thematic analysis of media coverage of urban park investments

    • This study will focus on the similarities and differences in messaging of media covering three park projects over different time periods.

      • How do the themes differ (or align) across the sites?

      • Who is represented in the stories?

    • This analysis will include coverage of the High Line in New York, the Rail Park in Philadelphia, and Klyde Warren Park in Dallas.

  • Article 3: Assessing the impact of intergroup contact in parks on people’s levels of trust in others and civic participation

    • This study will provide evidence to assess some of the claims made in the dominant discourses regarding potential social outcomes of park investments.

    • Using responses to an online survey, this study will use structural equation modeling to measure relationships between park use (frequency), contact with people from other racial/ethnic backgrounds, and trust and civic participation.

    • The findings will have implications for cities investing in their park systems.

Evaluation of Capital Investments in Philadelphia

  • We are assessing the outcomes of three capital investments using visitor surveys, resident surveys, and focus groups.

  • Key survey metrics:

    • Personal and community park ownership

    • Sense of belonging in the parks

    • Perceptions of parks as integral to the neighborhood social fabric

    • Engagement with park organizations and agencies

  • Park projects in this study: Bartram’s Garden and Mile, the Rail Park, and West Fairmount Park

Understanding St. Louis residents’ perceptions of city parks

  • An online survey administered to St. Louis residents will help us better understand their views of local parks, vacant lots, and gentrification.

  • Key survey metrics:

    • Perceptions of social contact in parks

    • Perceptions of green space ecosystem services

    • Gentrification worldview, beliefs, and endorsement of park development

    • Park-based social capital

Please see my cv for past research projects