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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Regional Planning

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Robert L. Ryan, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Elisabeth M. Hamin, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Nancy M. Well, Ph.D.

Subject Categories

Urban Studies and Planning


Green infrastructure refers to multi-functional elements that integrate ecological and anthropogenic factors and processes to support healthy ecosystems and communities (Austin, 2014; Benedict & McMahon, 2002). While green infrastructure has been embraced by planners, there is not a great deal of research among planners regarding the public's attitudes towards green land uses at the individual level. The dissertation studies explored three urban green infrastructure strategies: residential tree canopy, neighborhood green space, and community gardens; at the scale of user preferences and experiences.

The first study (Chapter 3) used photo preference methodology to explore the tension between residential density and urban greening. Study results suggested several aspects of neighborhood spatial form associated with higher preference by study participants (n=212): a green canopy and neighborhood greening; a vegetative buffer between housing and street; and a provision of sense of privacy by building form and vegetation.

The second study (Chapter 4) used descriptive analysis for a participatory planning and design activity to imagine an “ideal neighborhood”, as part of a larger study on urban ecology within a family science museum. Study results suggested that participants (n=172), many of whom were children, highly preferred green space as compared to other land uses when constructing imaginary neighborhoods. The project also explored engaging children in participatory planning within a museum setting and the use of this activity beyond the museum.

The third study (Chapter 5) contributes to scholarship about the attitudes and experiences of community gardeners within an urban garden network. Results from the study suggest that for participants (n=112), community gardens provided a setting to engage with neighbors and build community based on a shared interest. Attachment to place and people grew from these interactions, which, for many, motivated ongoing involvement in the garden and community.

The complexities of creating healthier, sustainable and adaptive urban settings makes it critical to engage urban populations in green infrastructure responses. Green spaces and elements are important to people and failure to provide the multiple benefits of access to nature in the city for all communities can have substantial costs to health as well as overall quality of life.