Public Green Spaces in Cities – a Framework for Governance


This week’s featured research article has just been published in Landscape Research and discusses a framework for governance of public green spaces in cities.

Public green spaces in cities typically include parks and reserves and other open spaces lacking built form that are defined by the following characteristics: they are usually in public ownership and management responsibility primarily lies with the state; access is usually free and they contain varying degrees of formal and informal recreational opportunities. Interest in the value of green spaces has enjoyed a revival in urban planning and management in response to the flourishing of new concepts and paradigms such as ‘urban greening’, ‘urban ecosystem services’  and ‘biophilic urban design’.

This resurgent interest in urban greening has led to a number of policy advances towards protecting and enhancing the values of green spaces. Regardless of the increased theoretical development in urban greening, the practice of landscape management tends to focus on the physical attributes and associated utility values that provide benefit to users (e.g. trees for shade or parks for recreation). However, this approach does not emphasise the role of users in managing ecosystem services provided by the landscape. Public authorities that seek to transfer the cost of managing green spaces to the private sector face apprehension about the extent of community input in managing of public green spaces in cities.

In practice, the governance arrangements for managing public green spaces are neither a purely private or public sector responsibility. They are part of complex and contested governance schemas that involve multiple stakeholder groups with varying interests and responsibilities. This paper proposes a simple framework to support different modes of governance appropriate for the management of public green spaces in cities. The framework classifies stakeholders’ desires for engagement based on ecosystem service characteristics defined on a spectrum of excludability and rivalry. The framework is applied to case studies in Australia and Canada. Finally, the researchers discuss the new insights for governance arrangements for public green space management in cities.

The article can be downloaded here (or email for a copy).