Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Community Planning

First Advisor

Marcia Marker Feld


The urban poor are isolated in our society. They lack skills, education, and opportunities. Specifically, they lack leisure and recreational opportunities. Unlike more affluent segments of the population, the inner city poor do not have proper access to recreational areas.

There are not an adequate number of accessible recreational areas within the vicinity of low-income neighborhoods. Moreover, the recreational areas, which are accessible, are often badly maintained and n a deteriorating condition or else are very small and have few facilities. Neighborhoods which now house low-income families within the inner city were often built prior to the current understandings about open space. Recreational needs were often not considered in the initial development of these neighborhoods. The amount of open recreational space has also been diminishing over the last several years. Fiscal constraints have forced local governments to sacrifice urban open space for various public projects. Recreational space has also been sold for private development. Although such development practices are normally carried out in all sections of the city, the impact has been far greater for low income neighborhoods. Development of open space within the inner city has had a detrimental impact on the poor, since open space is in such short supply in low income neighborhoods to begin with.

The poor also lack the means to travel to recreational areas located outside of the neighborhood. Recreational planners have attempted to meet the demand for public open space through extensive purchases in the periphery of metropolitan regions where land costs are the lowest. It was thought that such a strategy would benefit the poor. However, the poor lack access to these outside park and recreation areas. Since nearly all low income families do not own automobiles, they are dependent upon public transportation for travel to areas outside of the neighborhood. Unfortunately, few recreational planners have considered access to transit systems when purchasing and developing open space for recreational use and, as a result, few of the outlying areas are accessible to the inner city poor.

It is extremely difficult for the inner city poor to take advantage of outlying city and regional parks. Moreover, it is nearly impossible for the poor to use national parks and forests, given the location of most of these areas. They are, as one author has described, "light years" away from the inner city poor.1

This study will specifically examine the problem of recreation accessibility as it applies to eight low income neighborhoods in Boston. Three different types of recreational areas (neighborhood park and recreational areas, city wide park and recreational areas, and regional parks and recreational areas) were defined. The accessibility of each of the three different types of recreational areas was examined separately for each of the low income neighborhoods. The results show that low income neighborhoods in Boston, much like other parts of the country, lack proper access to recreational areas.

The first three chapters will set the basic groundwork. Chapter 1 will define accessibility and establish the criteria for the measure of accessibility. Chapter 2 will define the three different types of recreational areas. Chapter 3 will identify the eight low income neighborhoods that will be evaluated in this study.

The final three chapters will examine the accessibility of the neighborhood, park and recreation areas (Chapter 4), city wide park and recreation areas (Chapter 5), and regional park and recreation areas (Chapter 6) to each of the eight low income neighborhoods. There is a separate set of criteria to measure accessibility for each of the three different types of recreation areas. Each of the three recreation areas serve different needs, offer different resources and have been designed to serve a different client group.