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App: Green/Blue Space Accessibility in Halifax

Hosted in ArcGIS Online:

Mission Statement

Green spaces and blue spaces are increasingly recognized as critical features of urban environments. These therapeutic landscapes are shown to increase exercise, promote socialization, and improve mental and physical health and well-being in older adults. This critical ecosystem service is fundamental to healthy aging. Older adults often struggle with accessibility due to limited physical mobility. Fear of falling is cited as the most significant barrier to walking in older adults, and may results in altered route selection, or trip cancellation. Improper access to these areas may result in social isolation, ceasing physical activity and increasing rates of depression.

The orientation and condition of the built environment are determinants in walking ability and decision in older adults. Among many cited build environment conditions that impact walking to a destination, sidewalk slope and walking distance are typically most commonly discussed. Slopes that are higher than 5% rise may present increased challenge to walking, with 10% or greater acting as an absolute barrier to mobility limited older adults. This is especially true during winter months, where high slopes coupled with poor weather may result in total isolation of older adults. Halifax, Bedford, and Dartmouth have areas without sidewalks, and many sidewalks that are at extreme slope. Older adults living in areas with disconnected sidewalks or extreme slopes may not be able to traverse the environment to access green and blue spaces.

Older adults also explain that walking distances act as major barriers to ability to traverse a landscape. Distances over 100m with a rest stop (I.e., benches) may act as an absolute barrier to walking. As the study site does not have distributed rest stops throughout, the extreme walking distances coupled with sloped sidewalks means that many older adults (especially those that are financially vulnerable) are not able to walk to a green space or blue space destination. These individuals may rely on bus stops for accessibility. Unfortunately, bus stop distribution is not equal throughout the city, nor is sidewalk access to the bus stops.

This web app presents vital information for communities and community planners to identify vulnerable populations and vulnerable areas, which may have limited access to green and blue spaces. With a rapidly ageing population, and among the highest proportion of seniors in Canada, Nova Scotian urban locations must address the inequitable access to natural areas offering critical therapeutic ecosystem services.

Video Presentation


Team Members

Bay Berry: Bay graduated from Dalhousie University in 2020 with a BSc in Earth Sciences. Her masters research at the Université du Québec à Rimouski investigates wintertime coastal erosion on the North Shore of the St Lawrence Estuary and the impacts of warm, icefoot-free winters. Bay's PhD research with the Dalhousie Coastal Hydrology Lab focuses on numerical modeling of permafrost coastal dynamics, combining terrestrial and oceanographic processes to simulate permafrost coastal erosion under current and future climate conditions.

Nicolas Beauchamp: Nicolas is the GIS Intern with the Dalhousie University Killam Memorial Library and a recent graduate from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. When not geeking out on John Nelson YouTube videos you can find him foraging for music in his local record shoppe.

Beau Ahrens: Beau is a PhD Candidate in the Interdisciplinary PhD program at Dalhousie University in Halifax Nova Scotia, under Dr. Daniel Rainham. After completing his BA and MSc at the University of Guelph in Geography, focusing on GIS and Spatial Analysis techniques and theory. He now works on various projects studying the relationships between a person’s environment and their health and wellbeing. In his PhD research, Beau seeks to leverage spatial analysis and remote sensing techniques to understand the optimal tree and greenspace characteristics in promote good health in our cities. Beau has more recently moved to Calgary, to find new outdoor adventures for himself and his two dogs (Pixie and Kobe).