Community-planning approaches and residents' perceived safety: A landscape analysis of park design in the Woodlands, Texas

Yang, B., Li, S., Elder, B. R., & Wang, Z.

Yang, B., Li, S., Elder, B. R., & Wang, Z. (2013). Community-planning approaches and residents' perceived safety: A landscape analysis of park design in the Woodlands, Texas. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 30(4), 311–327.

ecology , landscape design , park , perceived safety , Planning approaches , Texas

This study compares community-park design and residents' perceptions of safety in two subdivision communities in The Woodlands, Texas. The communities were built following two different planning approaches—the ecological approach and the conventional approach. Surveys have shown that residents generally feel safer in community parks built according to the latter approach. Using landscape metrics and home-to-park proximity indicators, we examine how different planning approaches affect park design and, as a result, influence residents' perceptions of safety. We cross-validated the results with survey studies conducted over several years. The study findings suggest that park location, spatial configuration of woody vegetation, and management of understory can be important design considerations that impact residents' perceived levels of safety. Park designers and managers should also consider providing parks that meet diverse needs and balance the requirements of ecological preservation, aesthetics, and cultural preference.

Main finding
While the landscape design of Grogan's Mill subdivision received awards for its ecological sustainability, it sacrificed residents' perceived safety by engendering physical isolation, feelings of entrapment, and perceptions of risk. Alden Bridge subdivision, which followed a conventional planning approach, had higher perceptions of safety and more residents within the ideal range of parks (328–1,312 feet). The authors suggest clearing understory vegetation around entrances to trails, parks, and traffic hubs to create more visibility, as well as trimming trees to create higher canopies and increase sunlight. Regular maintenance and a space free from litter and graffiti also may increase perceptions of safety and user comfort.

Description of method used in the article
The study compared two villages in the Woodlands development in Montgomery County, TX. The residents were surveyed from 1999 through 2010 about perceived safety levels in community parks generally, in the neighborhood during the day and in the neighborhood during the night. In tandem, researchers analyzed three landscape ecology metrics - percentage of landscape (PLAND), number of patches (NP), and patch density (PD). The second analysis used park boundaries with a series of buffers in 328 ft. (100 m) increments to analyze home-to-park proximity.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Crime and Aggression
Spatial Methods Survey
Physical types
Geographic locations