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Urban recreation park sustainability in an Asian context.



This keynote presentation will project current and future leisure, recreation and tourism activity trends within an Asian context with particular attention to Taiwan ROC and urban recreation development. Applicability of leisure/recreation activity demand, key constructs and sustainability of these activities will be reviewed. Finally future-planning activities will be outlined with attention to a sustainability gradient as well as quality of life and environmental enhancement with particular attention to urban parks development.

Asian/Taiwan Context

We know that the Asian-Pacific region is the world's fastest growing tourist destination--moving from 3% in 1970 to 11.5% in 1991 to about 18% in 2000. (Bras 1999). Travel and tourism related industry will surpass all other sectors of the economy for export earnings for many Asian countries. The question is how tourism growth adds to existing development trends within Asian countries--raising both national income and standard of living without degrading the environment and threatening the integrity of regional culture. There also is a spectrum of increasing recreational development activity from wilderness to wildland, nature tourism to urban parks, to urban and cultural tourism to voluntary tourism.

As part of this context we should note that Asian cities have by far the highest density of population in the world (Sorensen et al 2004). These cities are moving from developing to developed economies and faced with increasing energy demands and attendant pollution and GHG levels. We are familiar with Taiwan's economic situation and environmental indicators through a recent Ph.D. dissertation by Chow (2006). As cities worldwide struggle to address similar growth and environmental quality issues--is there a way to maintain sustainable practices from environmental, social and economic perspectives (Smardon 2008) and maintain quality of life through development of multiple function urban parks?

Leisure motivation and demand--definition of terms and concepts

According to a meta-analysis by Manfredo et al (1996) there are four levels of demand for recreation; settings, activities, recreation experience outcomes and enduring personnel and social benefits. These basic ideas spawned, from what we call in the US, the Recreational Opportunity Spectrum (ROS), which is broadly used by federal and state agencies for recreational planning activities--mostly for wildland and rural areas. Activities include hiking, camping, trail riding, hunting; fishing and water based recreational activities. There is even a specialized recreational activity opportunity spectrum for urbanized areas. (Moore et al. 2003).

Based on this basic recreational planning system six distinct leisure demand research tracks are ongoing in North America:

* Describing and comparing experience preferences of participants in specific recreational activities,

* Empirically derive "experience types" or homogeneous subsets of recreationist whose similarity is based on commonalities in desired experience setting and activity preferences,

* Establishing the relationship among experience setting and activity preferences,

* Relationship between non-leisure conditions and experience preferences,

* Relationships between experience preferences and basic subject characteristics such as personality traits and values, and

* Development and testing of recreational scales.

Although such research has been useful for planning for outdoor related recreation in various contexts, including wilderness and wildland, recreation ecotourism, water recreation and even urban park planning- it has been criticized for not addressing other increasing leisure activities among certain demographics such as Internet use, home gardening and television viewing (Belhassen et al 2005). There is also the issue of younger people spending more time on the Internet, playing video games and watching television vs. engaged in outdoor activities.

Within leisure science we then have the issue of culture and self-constructual influences on leisure preferences. According to Walker and Wang ((2005) and Markus and Kitayama (1991) North Americans and Western Europeans are more likely to have independent self-constructs (to value being unique, asserting oneself, or expressing inner attributes) versus people in or from Asia, Africa or Southern Europe are more likely to have interdependent self-constructs (value belonging, fitting in, maintaining harmony, restraining oneself, and promoting others goals).

Triandis (1995) contends another aspect of self-construal exists in terms of promoting equality (horizontal relationships) or hierarchy (vertical relationships). Walker and Whang (2005) tested both sets of characteristics on a sample of European/Canadians and Chinese/Canadians. 63% of the Chinese/Canadians were collectivists with equal percentages being horizontal and vertical. These findings support Walker and Whang (2005) contentions that collectivism and individualism should be considered when studying culture and leisure, as well as planning and managing recreation programs and services for ethic populations. Walker and Chang (2005) suggest that researchers and practitioners should consider what effects equality and hierarchy may have effect--since one in three Chinese/Canadians were vertical collectivists.


There is another refinement of this hierarchical model of leisure constraints proposed by Chick and Dong (2003). Crawford et al (1991) identified three major types of constraints to leisure in 1987(See Figure 1). These are interpersonal constraints, interpersonal constraints, and structural constraints. Intrapersonal constraints involve psychological conditions that are internal to the individual such as personality factors, attitudes, or more temporary psychological conditions such as mood. Interpersonal constraints are those that arise out of interaction with others such as family members, friends and co-workers and neighbors. Structural constraints include such factors as the lack of opportunities or the cost of activities that result from external conditions in the environment.

As Chick and Dong (2003) have stated--leisure models created in North America may not be applicable in Asian countries. As Ap (2002) has stated:

* Parts of Asia modernized in an Asian way while attaining per capita GDP's that rival western countries, and

* Even if Asians are influenced by Western ideas--they may not embrace western values.

Findings from the study by Chick and Dong (2003) indicate that three types of leisure constraints; intrapersonal, interpersonal, and structural also exists for societies outside of North America, Japan and China. They also found that personal and interpersonal constraints are also influenced by culture and that both intrapersonal and interpersonal constraints should be subordinate to culture in any hierarchical model (see Figure 2). Similar findings are noted by Bi (2005) in applying the ecotourism opportunity spectrum (EGOS) to China and Taiwan ecotourists as well (Kerstetter et al 2008). Within this study, there were differences in both preferences and opinions of ecotourists and that cultural and social factors emerge as the central reason why it is difficult to apply all the EGOS factors to the two study areas in China.


In summary what is proposed is that cultural and social factors should be carefully assessed before calibrating existing models of leisure activity demand for Asian urban recreational areas (Ap 2002, Chuang 1998). Special care should be taken with the age class demographic, as some researchers have already identified shifts in environmental attitudes among some Asian populations as income levels rise and traditional values fade (Belhassen et a12005, Carrington et al 1987, Wong 2001).

Leisure, Recreation and Tourism Activity Demand vs. Sustainability

As income and development levels for many Asian countries increase- there will be an increasing demand for recreation/tourism activity, which in turn will place increasing stress on environmental carrying capacity and indigenous cultural resources. Allow me to project some trends in leisure/recreation and tourism activity related to sustainability of such activities.

Mass destination and resort tourism: One of the fastest growing phenomena that we are witnessing throughout the world is mass tourism destination activity. It could be Dubai, Honolulu, Orlando, Hong Kong or even Taipei. Although this activity produces lots of revenue and employment for the destination - it is unsustainable given the resource demands of housing, water, energy, food and especially carbon footprint. This activity also impacts resident use of urban parks. We have recently done a dissertation on the tourism impact on the Mediterranean coastal zone of Turkey for the city of Anetalya (Kaya 2006). The resource impacts are extreme as is true for many coastal zone locations around the world (Aitchison et a12000, and Cox et al, 2004).

Cultural and nature tourism activity is also a rapidly growing sector in the tourism economy (Aitchsion et a1200, McCool and Morsey 2001 and Thyne and Laws 2005). There is an incredible potential to link these two activities throughout Asia and these activities can also be linked to biodiversity protection (Sheppard 2001). There is also a suggestion that stronger contextualization is needed to better enable Asian populations to understand the value of protecting natural areas (Cochrane 2006, Platenkamp 2007).

Voluntary tourism and poverty alleviation: A relatively new tourism activity is volunteerism either to assist ecologically or to assist local communities from a socioeconomic perspective (Connell and Rgendyke 2008, Shah and Gupta 2000, Stebbins and Graham 2004) Examples are archeological digs, wildlife habitat protection projects or post disaster assistance housing projects--where individuals sign up to do these projects for altruistic motives. We have also seen such projects in Mexico and other regions of the world where the objective is poverty alleviation through ecotourism and other resource dependent activities.

Urban Greenspace enhancement: One of the real challenges for many urban areas such as Taipei is reclaiming forgotten open space remnants into multifunctional greenways useful for protecting water quality, mitigating urban runoff, providing urban wildlife habitat, carbon storage through urban trees, climate temperature amelioration, and even food and fiber production (Selly 2004, Shing and Marafa 2006, Turner 2003, Wei et a12007) Such green systems also enhance urban tourism as well as provide recreation and leisure services for inner city residents( Li 1998, Moore et al 2003, Smardon 1988). Some notable examples include Brasilia, Victoria Spain, Toronto Canada and Portland Oregon. Besides the physical greening of the city--many cities worldwide belong to the Cities for Climate Protection Program (CCP) that is supported by the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), which allows them to calculate their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and then set targets to reduce emissions through planning and implementation.

At the SUNY college of Environmental Science and Forestry we have been involved with a number of urban Greenspace/urban ecosystems related activities. These include:

* Working with the City of Syracuse to document GHG emissions from all city operations which then allows them to set targets for energy conservation and reducing GHG emissions. We are also working on calculating how urban trees store carbon, reduce water runoff, absorb air pollutants and microclimate affect on temperatures on nearby buildings (Domm et a12008).

* Working with four other organizations (including the City of Syracuse) to develop a Onondaga Creek Revitalization Plan ( This plan is a participatory process to develop consensus on projects to restore economic social and environmental vitality of the Onondaga creek corridor, which runs through several neighborhoods within the City of Syracuse. Measure include water quality, wildlife and fisheries, access for recreation and other creek improvement measures.

* Working on watersheds within the central New York area to improve water quality including constructed wetlands for water treatment as well as interpretative uses.


So how is Taiwan doing with sustainability planning as suggested under local agenda 21 from the "Rio Sustainability conference"? The author has recently documented sustainability progress for European, North American and Indian Cities (Smardon 2008). We have found evidence of sustainability planning activity for Taiwan, ROC (Yeh et al 2001) as well as some of its municipalities, for periurban agriculture (Turner 2003, and Unknown 2007), for park and trail development (Gao 2007), planning for indigenous populations and for recreation and leisure planning sustainability indicators (Yeh et al 2001). It seems Taiwan has urban ecosystems potential for approaches that address:

* Urban food and fiber production within the urban fabric,

* Steep slope woodland multifunctional use for carbon sequestration, runoff amelioration, air quality mitigation and wildlife habitat; and

* Greenway hiking trails for aesthetics and water quality maintenance;

* All within a system of interlinked urban greenways that are then tied into cultural and urban tourism systems.

Taiwan has a rich history of urban park development beginning with Memorial Park in Taipei City among others. Such park development is attributed by some (T-W Kwok 2005) as a sign of Taipei Taiwan's globalization. There are also Taiwan researchers including those from NTNU who are investigating urban parks for social-psychological restorative effects (C-C Huang and CY-Chang 2008) as well as urban ecosystem microclimate functions (Chang C-R et al 2006). It seems the challenge is meeting recreational/health needs and maintaining urban ecosystems functions when considering both park maintenance and future design.


Modification of current leisure activity demand models and needed of use with Asian populations that are sensitive to local culture and social factors. Planning for infrastructure for leisure/recreation and tourism activities needs to be done in a way that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. For Asian urban areas such environmental planning and design can be done; 1) to restore past environmental functions, 2) and improve human health and well being within a relatively high-density environment. The latter is where we can learn from Asian designers for addressing compact urban design issues while incorporating urban Greenspace within high-density urban contexts (Lin and Yang 2005).


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Web sites accessed

[1] Asia Tourism Research accessed at

[2] IUCN accessed at

[3] IGU Study Group on the Geography of Sustainable Tourism Activity Report 1999 by C. M. Hall accessed at

[4] National Council for Sustainable Development Network, Action Plan; Taiwan Sustainable Development Action Plan

[5] RUCTA Research Themes accessed at

[6] Taiwan Forestry Bureau, Council of Agriculture, Taipei

[7] UNEP tourism-putting tourism on a sustainable path accessed at

Richard C. Smardon

part of 8th International Conference of Sports and Leisure, National Taiwan University, Taipei Taiwan
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Author:Smardon, Richard C.
Publication:International Journal of Applied Environmental Sciences
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:90ASI
Date:Jun 1, 2009
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