Investigating residents' use and perceptions of informal greenspaces: a study of Stony Creek in Melbourne's west
As the world’s population is becoming more urbanised, there is growing recognition of greenspaces as a promising planning tool in tackling problems associated with urbanisation. An increasing body of research highlights the physiological, environmental and social benefits of urban greenspaces for urbanites. So far, however, very little attention has been paid to informal greenspaces and their potential uses and benefits. Informal greenspaces are found in a variety of forms and types including vacant lots, railway or waterway verges and brownfields. Drawing on a case study of Upper Stony Creek, an urban waterway in Melbourne’s West, this paper examines how residents perceive and use informal greenspaces. Upper Stony Creek is a concreted drainage channel separated from the residential area. An informal greenspace of around 40,000 square metres is located towards the south of the Creek. Drawing on qualitative interviews with residents living in close proximity to the Creek, the study examined how residents engaged with and benefited from the presence of informal greenspaces in their neighbourhood. The findings showed that not only do residents use the accessible green area, but they were also using the fenced-off channel verges. Dog walking was the main activity conducted in these spaces and the lack of regular maintenance and perceptions of unsafety were among the most critical concerns regarding their use. The paper concludes by recommending ways informal greenspaces can be managed and utilised to add value to urban environments and fully capitalise on their potential as additional parkland.