Arusha is known for its strategic location to access most of the tourism attractions in the country. As the city council prepares a new master plan, most of stakeholder envisage a green city which will be liveable, not only for local citizens, but also for tourists. This research hopes to shed light on availability and current uses of open spaces as an input towards Arusha they want.
In Tanzania, there are several measures and efforts to protect nature for environmental, ecological and tourism purposes. These efforts are mainly concerned with large, bio-diverse and relatively untouched ecosystems and with individual animal or vegetal species, either endangered or threatened with extinction. However, little attention has been paid to the type of natural environments that are close to where people live and work, to small-scale green areas in cities or towns and to their benefits to people. Most of cities and towns in the country have special land parcels reserved or allocated for public open spaces. However, most of them are either abondoned or changed into other uses such as residential or commercial land uses. This is the case despite the empirical evidence stressing their important socio-economic and psychological benefits to urban residents, which enhance human life with meanings and emotions .
Urbanisation is real and is on the rise in Tanzanian cities and towns. As this urbanisation unfolds, it is important to build the empirical base that will inform urban development policies in Arusha city council as they are in the process of producing a new master plan for the city and other small towns in the vicinity. An evidence-based approach to urban planning and management is essential for our local government authorities.
The terms public parks, green spaces, open spaces or public open spaces are all used as synonyms to refer to publically accessible land that is set aside for recreation, leisure, sport, conservation and/or associated environmental and urban design functions . A number of studies have demonstrated numerous benefits linked to the use of public open spaces, which include physical and psychological benefits, health benefits, mental health and well-being, and environmental benefits in this climate changing globe .
It is also believed that participation in a broad range of leisure activities has the potential to improve physiological and mental health, contribute to personal development, improve well-being and assist in social learning which includes tolerance, respect, cooperation, and leadership. In addition, participation in such activities may also contribute to a reduction in anti-social behaviour, assist in the improvement of educational performance, promote a sense of community belonging and reduce incidences of social isolation.
In urban planning and public health perspectives, it is argued that green space influences physical health through its effect on physical activity levels. Thus, the design of the urban built environment by designating specific areas for green space offers opportunities for beneficial ‘green exercise’ such as walking and cycling. Whilst there is strong evidence of the health benefits of physical activity, the evidence that shows the availability, the use and the users, and the accessibility to public parks in Arusha are unclear and not well documented.
In addition, little is known as to how the public open spaces in Arusha contribute to the liveability of the city and to what extent they provide opportunities for active transport and recreation activities to its residents such as walking, and cycling. Therefore empirical evidence is highly needed in Arusha as this evidence will be used to help the city council and key stakeholders make informed decisions related to public parks as they are currently in the process of preparing a new Master. In light of the above background, this study aims generally at assessing the quality of public parks and pedestrian environment in Arusha, Tanzania. Specifically, this research intends to: (1) identify and map all the available public parks in Arusha, (2) analyse the walking sheds around all the public parks in Arusha (3) assess the accessibility and pedestrian environment/infrastructure around the public parks in Arusha (4) examine types of uses and users of the public parks in Arusha