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Measuring park use

The number of visits a park receives is a simple way of reflecting some of the wider values that parks bring to communities.

The tangible, financial value of a park should not be the only consideration for local authorities when making investment decisions. The way that brands are valued help us to think about how to capture some of the less tangible values that parks contribute. Commercial brand valuation techniques seek to put a financial value on the benefit to a company of owning a brand.

Park use, defined by visitor numbers, was identified as a proxy measure for the ‘brand value’ of green space and a way to indicate, within limits, the quality of a space. It demonstrates people’s appreciation of the asset revealed by their willingness to spend their free time using the green space.

Measuring the number of visits a park receives can complement and provide additional information to the financial values recorded on a balance sheet.

A number of limitations need to be acknowledged including:

  • Level of park use will always be influenced by independent factors such as the number of people living within walking distance to the space or the range and quality of facilities it offers users.
  • Overall levels of use does not take into account of differences in the value of use to different people. Parks carry different values for different people.
  • Even people who do not actually visit parks like the fact that they are there.

However, park use can provide a simple measure that can be compared over time to indicate some indication of the level of quality of a space and understand:

  • Impact of investment in individual parks.
  • How use in spaces may change over time
  • Variations in green space provision across areas.
  • Where resources could be targeted
  • How costs compare with other cultural and leisure services.