Students in two consecutive Senior Seminars in Health Studies (HEST 400) conducted this project. Biddle Mission Park, on East North Street, has been the target of improvement and upgrade efforts by a coalition including the East Side Neighbors Association (ESNA), the borough Department of Parks and Recreation, CAHWF, and Downtown Carlisle Association. The coalition created a plan for adding a walking path and replacing playground equipment, and obtained support from local businesses to help fund the improvements.
The purpose of the community-based research project was to obtain before- and after-improvement figures to learn whether the improvements are prompting park users to be more physically active during their visits.
On two consecutive weekends in September 2010, HEST 400 students observed the park for more than 20 hours. While at the park, they counted the number of users by age group and gender and estimated how active each user was. These observations served as measures of park user activity before improvements were made. Students in fall 2011’s HEST 400 seminar observed the park during two weekends in September 2011, about three months after the new walking path opened and the improved equipment was installed.
Members of the 2010 seminar presented a preliminary report on the “before” (2010) findings to all the stakeholders. A student from the 2010 seminar is working with Prof. Andy Skelton on a comprehensive report that includes the “after” (2011) observations. The key finding is that the percentage of park users engaged in nonsedentary activities is higher in the improved Biddle Mission Park. A smaller proportion of the 2011 users were classified as “just sitting” than the 2010 users. Larger proportions of 2011 users were involved in “vigorous activity” than in 2010. This was especially true for adult women; four times as many were doing vigorous activities in the 2011 sample as in the 2010 sample.