Development and Testing of a Community Stakeholder Park Audit Tool

Community parks are an important resource that can support physical activity. Environmental features vary among parks and may include trails, playgrounds, fields, restrooms, drinking fountains, lighting and shade. Few tools exist for auditing parks for their potential to promote physical activity that also engage community stakeholders in the process. These authors developed a user-friendly tool to do just that.

The tool developers recruited community representatives in the Kansas City metro area to participate—from public health, parks and recreation, planning, youth agencies, nonprofits, business, education, legislators, and park users and nonusers. With focus group input they revised and simplified the park audit tool.

The researchers chose 59 parks—for diversity of location, size, features, quality and neighborhood composition—to test the tool. The resulting Community Park Audit Tool and guidebook spans six pages and takes 32 minutes to complete on average.

A survey conducted after the audit found that 83 percent of participants’ perceptions of the importance of the built environment and parks for promoting physical activity had improved moderately or a lot. They found the process encouraged team-building and thought it also could be used to engage citizens to advocate for parks as a way to improve active-living environments.