Maryland Park Equity Mapper

The Maryland Park Equity Mapper combines layers of demographic and environmental data in order to determine the park equity of different census tracts, allowing users to visualize disparities in park access and quality across the state. The tool was developed by the Community Engagement, Environmental Justice, and Health (CEEJH) Laboratory at the University of Maryland School of Public Health in partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR) and University of Maryland Center for Geospatial Information Science (CGIS).1 This tool can be used by residents and policymakers in order to identify underserved communities that are in need of new park infrastructure and green space.

Studies have shown that spending time in nature is critical to children’s physical, social, and cognitive well-being. MD DNR cites evidence that children in underserved communities that lack access to nature may be more at risk of childhood obesity, attention deficit disorder, and depression. Furthermore, green space provides essential economic, social, and environmental benefits for community members of all ages. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources developed the Park Equity Analysis in partnership with the University of Maryland in order to better pinpoint areas in Maryland where residents face cultural, socioeconomic, and health barriers to green space. 

The total park equity score is determined through a combination of the following data layers:

  • Distance to Public Park Space
  • Distance to Public Transportation
  • Concentration of Children under the age of 17
  • Concentration of Adults over the age of 65
  • Concentration of Low-Income Households 
  • Concentration of Non-White Population
  • Population density 
  • Walkability

The scores are color coded, with lighter to darker regions indicating lower to higher scores. Darker colors correspond to higher levels of the data layers, and therefore reflect potential underserved communities. 

Environmental Justice Context Layers are also available on the tool, such as the location of supermarkets, small grocery stores, public schools, the percent hispanic and black residents per census tract, and areas designated as Low Access and Low  Income by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). An Environmental Justice (EJ) score is also available for each census tract, which reflects the risks residents face from different environmental concerns. The data layers and their associated sub layers that this EJ score is built from can be seen as well in the mapper: 

  • Pollution Burden: Exposure
  • Pollution Burden: Environmental Effects
  • Population Characteristics: Sensitive Populations
  • Population Characteristics: Socioeconomic Factors

Users can compare park equity scores with both EJ Context layers and EJ scores in order to make connections between different underlying factors that are related to park equity. 

When it comes to navigating the map, users can zoom in or out on different areas of Maryland, and use the select tool to view data within specified block groups. Users can view one or more layers on the map at a time, although viewing more than one layer makes it harder to visualize the data. In order to view two layers side by side, users can select the Side by Side Map Viewer, which allows users to select two unique indicators for direct comparison. 


Publication Date: 2019

Related Organizations:

  • Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • University of Maryland

Related Resources:

Related Toolkits:


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Mapping tool

States Affected:

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