Using Geographic Information Systems to Compare Municipal, County, and Commercial Parks Data

Parks data are available to researchers from various sources; however, the accuracy of data sources in representing parks is unknown.

The Issue:

This study compared secondary parks data obtained from a commercial vendor with data from municipal/county government records, all of which were verified by using Internet searches, telephone inquiries, or on-the-ground audits.


Key Findings:

  • Commercial parks data did not include 31.1 percent (119/383, 20.3 sq mi) of North Carolina, 42.9 percent (187/436, 21.8 sq mi) of Maryland, and 71.7 percent (640/892, 13.5 sq mi) of New York parks that they found and verified from municipal/county sources.
  • Municipal/county data did not include 15.7 percent (60/383, 9.9 sq mi) of North Carolina parks, 27.5 percent (120/436, 74.6) of Maryland parks, and 9.0 percent (80/892, 6.3 sq mi) of New York parks that they found and verified from commercial sources.



In this study, the combination of commercial and municipal/county data sources that were verified provided the most complete and accurate shapefile. The quality of secondary sources of parks data should be checked prior to use and, if needed, methods incorporated to improve the capture of parks.


About the Study:

The researchers studied large metropolitan areas in three states: North Carolina (1,837 sq mi), Maryland (1,351 sq mi), and New York (260 sq mi). They collected information on park land area (shapefiles) from municipal/county governments from 2009 through 2012 and from a commercial source in 2010.