Public evaluation of open space in Illinois: Citizen support for natural area acquisition

Erik A. Backlund, William P. Stewart, Cary McDonald, Craig Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Numerous studies have indicated a broad-based support for open space preservation and protection. Research also has characterized the public values and rationale that underlie the widespread support for open space. In recognition of the widespread public support for open space, various levels of government have implemented programs to provide public access to open space. There are many different types of open space, ranging from golf courses, ball parks, wildlife areas, and prairies, to name a few. This paper addresses questions related to the types of open space that should be prioritized by planners and natural resource managers. The results of this study are based on a stratified random sample of 5000 households in Illinois that were sent a questionnaire related to their support for various types of open space. Through a comparatively simple action grid analysis, the open space types that should be prioritized for public access include forest areas, stream corridors, wildlife habitat, and lakes/ponds. These were the open space types rated of the highest importance, yet were also the open space types rated the lowest in respondent satisfaction. This kind of analysis does not require the technical expertise of other options for land-use prioritizations (e.g., conjoint analysis, contingent valuation), yet provides important policy directives for planners. Although open space funds often allow for purchase of developed sites such as golf courses, ball parks, and community parks, this study indicates that undeveloped (or nature-based) open space lands are most needed in Illinois.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)634-641
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2004


  • Action grid analysis
  • Citizen support
  • Community conservation
  • Open space

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


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