Kansas City Parks and Physical Activity Project

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Development of a Community Stakeholder Park Audit Tool

an Active Living Research Project

This page primarily describes the project component entitled "Development of a Community Stakeholder Park Audit Tool", the purpose of which is to develop a park audit tool that can be used by diverse groups to evaluate neighborhood parks for their potential to promote youth physical activity. Please read on to learn more about the project.

Project Team

Dr. Andrew Kaczynski, Kansas State University, PI
Dr. Sonja Wilhelm Stanis, University of Missouri, Co-PI
Mark McHenry, City of Kansas City, Missouri, Co-I
Gina Besenyi, Kansas State University, Project Manager

Study Background and Objectives

Park environments provide important venues for adult and youth physical activity. Better understanding what it is about these settings that attracts and encourages their active use requires reliable methods for auditing park environments. At the same time, developing activity-friendly neighborhoods, including better parks, requires support from multiple constituencies, including those not directly responsible for parks or physical activity promotion. This can be accomplished by involving representatives from diverse groups in evaluating, advocating for, and promoting improved accessibility and design of community parks and open spaces. Unfortunately, the various shortcomings of existing park audit tools have prevented their widespread uptake and use by non-academic professionals and community groups.


The purpose of this study was to develop a tool that will enable diverse stakeholders to quickly and reliably audit community parks for their potential to promote youth physical activity. The specific aims were:

  1. To review and evaluate existing park audit tools for their suitability for i) use by diverse community stakeholders, and ii) understanding park characteristics that may encourage youth physical activity.
  2. To develop a revised, user-friendly tool with lay terminology that can facilitate involvement in research by community stakeholders and that captures park characteristics that are likely associated with youth physical activity.
  3. To test the reliability of the new tool when used by diverse community stakeholders to audit parks.
  4. To engage stakeholders in a process of thinking about the role of parks in community-level physical activity participation and how parks may be better designed to enhance youth physical activity in particular.
  5. To document the process of tool development and engagement by community stakeholders around parks, the results of this process, and to disseminate lessons learned to facilitate better process in the future and in other communities.

Study Setting & Participants

This project occurred in Kansas City, Missouri and brought together over 30 representatives from diverse constituencies with an interest in community parks (e.g., academia, parks and recreation, public health, youth agencies, legislators, community users and non-users, etc.). Over the course of 2010 these stakeholders engaged in three workshops and tested the park audit tool in 60 Kansas City parks that represented a mix of quality and size that emphasized features oriented towards youth physical activity (e.g., playgrounds). Each Study stage is described below:

Study Stages

  1. Review of existing instruments (April 2010): We began by reviewing existing park audit instruments to evaluate their user-friendliness and suitability to youth physical activity and to analyze the domains and specific items each covers.
  2. Planning workshop with community stakeholders (June 2010): An initial workshop with community stakeholders was held to introduce the study and to engage participants in the process of developing a revised park audit tool that emphasizes youth physical activity and use by non-researchers.
  3. Development of park audit tool (July-August 2010): The study team used information gathered in stages 1 and 2, as well as our own expertise related to park-based physical activity, to develop a revised park audit tool.
  4. Training workshop with community stakeholders (September 2010): A second workshop was held with stakeholders to present the preliminary version of the new tool and to train participants in its use for testing in field settings.
  5. Testing of park audit tool (September-October 2010): Pairs of trained park raters used the new tool to audit approximately 55 parks. These data were used to examine the tool's inter-rater reliability.
  6. Evaluation workshop with community stakeholders (January 2011): A final workshop was held with stakeholders to gain feedback on the tool's overall usability and to gather suggestions on disseminating it throughout the community and beyond.
  7. Dissemination of park audit tool (February-April 2011): Finally, dissemination of the Community Park Audit Tool is ongoing both locally and nationally via workshops with community groups and presentations at conferences, through publications in professionally-oriented and peer-reviewed journals, and on this website. Click the links below to access various products that describe the CPAT and this component of the Kansas City Parks and Physical Activity Project.


Study Funding Sources

This project was funded by Active Living Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


For more information, please contact:

Dr. Andrew Kaczynski
Physical Activity and Public Health Laboratory
Department of Kinesiology
1A Natatorium
Kansas State University
Manhattan, Kansas 66506
Dr. Sonja Wilhelm Stanis
Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism
School of Natural Resources
105e Anheuser-Busch Natural Resources Bldg
University of Missouri
Columbia, Missouri 65221


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