Two Thumbs Up for Park Renovations

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Allentown’s recently renovated Cedar Creek Parkway is meeting with overwhelming approval from a majority of its users.  A new study commissioned by the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society, in cooperation with the City of Allentown Department of Parks and Recreation, finds that recent renovations at Cedar Creek Parkway produced a number of favorable outcomes.

A pre-renovation survey was conducted in Cedar Creek Parkway during the summer of 2008.  The survey was designed to document park visitor behaviors and perceptions before major renovations were made to the park.  With this benchmark data in hand, a survey team returned to Cedar Creek Parkway in 2011 after renovations were completed, and evaluated whether these investments have increased park visitation and/or improved visitor perceptions.

The study found that a large majority of visitors at Cedar Creek Parkway (84%) were aware of the park renovations and identified numerous improvements to the trails, the environmental quality, park support features, as well as the new Destination Playground.  When asked how the renovations influenced their park use, a majority of Cedar Creek Parkway visitors reported that they visited more frequently, stayed longer at the park and did a wider variety of activities due to these renovations.  Overall park satisfaction also increased significantly as a result of renovations.  The perceived quality of specific features such as the condition of paths, cleanliness of restrooms, availability of picnic areas and drinking water, quality of the creek and lake and overall park cleanliness increased significantly at Cedar Creek Parkway after the renovation.

The study also found that physical activity levels increased significantly.  For example, a majority of children (75%) who visited the Cedar Creek Parkway after the renovations were physically active during their park visit.  This statistic provides valuable insight, given that more than 40% of Allentown School District children are overweight or obese.

According to Andrew J. Mowen, Ph.D., who served as the study’s principal investigator, “This evaluation was one of the first in the nation to formally document the changes that result from investing in renovations in community parks.  Our findings suggest that park renovations can have a positive influence on visitors and the greater community.  This type of evidence can be used to defend the merits of park projects in Pennsylvania and the funding that supports those projects.”