A walk in the park (avoiding snakes in the grass): a study of park use and preference, Snow Creek Park, Walnut, California

This study investigated the park use patterns and aesthetic preferences of park users in Snow Creek Park, Walnut, California. The objective was to discover whether there were connections between park typology conceptualization and recreational and home landscape aesthetic preferences, and the impact of those preferences, both conscious and unconscious, on park use. Studies on recreational use of natural environments, changes in park typologies, and landscape aesthetics, perception, and preference informed this study. Data was collected and analyzed through interpretation of historical aerial photos to track landscape change over time; behavioral observation and mapping to understand the variety of Snow Creek Park user activities; and questionnaires to understand Snow Creek Park users’ attitudes and behaviors in parks and in home environments. Descriptive statistics report quantitative data from the research. Inductive analysis of qualitative data resulted in the emergence of three major themes: the importance of experiential factors in the park experience; the range of aesthetic preferences in park and home landscapes; and respondents’ preferences and perceptions of sustainability in the landscape. Results indicated that park users in this study valued a wide variety of outdoor experiences in parks and at home and that their experiential needs influenced aesthetic preferences for both public and private settings. This study demonstrated that there was a complex interaction of factors affecting landscape preferences and practices that acted as barriers to adopting more sustainable home landscape types.