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Parks and Trails Health Impact Assessment

This website is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated.

The Healthy Community Design Initiative, also known as the Built Environment and Health Initiative, is no longer a funded program and the information on this website is not being reviewed and updated on a regular basis.


Section B: Data

Data can demonstrate how parks and trails relate to communities. Mapping the location of parks and their geographic relationship to areas of community concern can provide valuable insights for decisions. In particular, health data can help focus attention on service needs by identifying at-risk and underserved populations.

Hint- Setting up a framework and plan to evaluate the impact of the HIA early in the process informs both the effects of the decisions and the HIA itself. Identifying who will be responsible for the follow-up evaluation at the beginning of the HIA process makes follow-up more likely to happen.

Baseline data/information sources to consider


Local data sources

National data sources


Physical Park Characteristics

Existing parks and trails

Parks and Recreation inventories

Planning Department inventories

PAD-US USGS Protected Areas Data

May want to identify:

– Sites with organized programs with supervision or regular staff

– Sites with informal activities and easy-access walking routes

Walking access

Park inventory

GIS analysis

Street maps

Walk route maps

Aerial photographs

Map park and trail entrances and the walk routes serving them. Identify areas with less than ½ mile walk routes to park entrances.

Sites with large differences between the number of people living within 0.5 miles of a park boundary and the number who have less than a 0.5 mile walk along a walk route to a park or trail entrance can be reviewed for addition access points and route improvements.

Views of entrances and exits of a site Site visits

Photos linked to GPS data points

Aerial photographs

Better visibility of park and trail entrances may increase use

Smart phones with the ability to capture GPS points can help identify these locations

Existing site conditions


          Vegetation–tree lines and specimen trees

          Wetlands/flood plains

          Water–streams, ponds, shore lines

          Adjacent streets

          Adjacent land use

          Play structures



Site visits

Street maps

Parks and recreation department

Planning department—maps and site analysis information

Aerial photographs

FEMA flood insurance maps

USGS Quad sheets

Understanding existing site conditions assists in the identification of opportunities and constraints unique to particular sites
Safety Characteristics

          Violent and property crime incidents in parks and adjacent neighborhoods

Public Safety or Police Departments reports Crime and safety issues are often major concerns. Knowing the crime patterns in and around the project can lead to insights about whether this is a problem and strategies to address key issues.
Natural surveillance

          Views into and within a site that ensure visibility for safety and emergency activities

Audits by Crime Prevention through environmental design trained staff. (Personnel with this training are often associated with Police/Public Safety Departments.) Highly visible public areas typically experience less crime than secluded sites.

          Motor vehicle crashes within a walkable distance

          Pedestrian injuries and fatalities

          Bicycle injuries and fatalities

Public Safety/ Police reports

Transportation Department reports

Public Works reports

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Helps determine if and where traffic calming is needed
Neighborhood Characteristics
Demographic data and Community profiles Planning Department reports

U.S. Census

American Community Survey

Vital Statistics

Age groups, economic, race, ethnic, single mothers, living in multi-family or very dense housing
Neighborhood context

          Vacant land

          Tax exempt properties

          Foreclosed properties

          Type of ownership

Tax Commissioner maps Provides a visual representation of neighborhood economic vitality as well as potential sites for new entry points, new or expanded parks, and street network connections
Neighborhood organizations Important features/services within the community that may have a relationship with a park or trail Obtain lists of contacts from such sources as

          Planning Department,

          Parks and Recreation Department

          Community Development Department

          United Way

          Health Department

Identify potential partners:





          Civic organizations

Pedestrian and bike route analysis

Map routes to logical destinations, such as from park entrances to school entrances

Planning Department maps

Metropolitan Planning Organization maps

Local university maps

Demonstrates opportunities to improve connectivity

Images of opportunities and barriers within the service area

Stakeholders or other interested groups Ensure photographs are keyed, with brief statements of their significance and the locations are mapped
Public Health Characteristics
Disease Prevalence Data

Health Department/Board of Health data reports

Hospital community assessments

Insurance provider community profiles/ assessments

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS)

National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program

Community Commons

County Health Rankings

For the service area and the community as a whole:

-Mortality rates

-% overweight children

-Diabetes mortality rates

-Asthma hospitalization rates

-Heart disease mortality rates

-Depression hospitalization rates

-Unintentional injury rates

-% low birthrate babies

-% of babies born to unwed mothers

-Inactivity rates



Health Department/Board of Health

Nonprofit organizations

RWJ Active Living Identify the health goals of the initiative; determine how they will be measured; state what will be considered success; and establish an evaluation process.

Organize and prepare to capture pre- and post-project data for evaluation