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Oregonians generally feel safe in parks, natural areas

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

Oregonians feel safe in their local natural areas and parks.

That was the result of a study conducted by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center, an  independent, nonpartisan research organization. The center studied 1,554 online responses from November of last year. 

A total of 77 percent of respondents said they felt safe or leaning toward safe at parks in or near their neighborhoods and 80 percent felt safe or leaning toward safe in natural areas in their area of Oregon. The survey had a margin of error of plus/minus 2.48 percent.

Here is a look at key findings of the study:

• Younger Oregonians feel less safe than older Oregonians in both neighborhood parks and nature preserves.

• Those with a high school education or less, those 18 to 29 years old, BIPOC Oregonians, and those with children tend to feel the least safe in natural areas. BIPOC refers to Blacks, Indigenous people and people of color. 

• Oregonians with school-aged children feel less safe in natural areas than folks without children, with one in five feeling unsafe spending time in parks near their house or neighborhood.

• BIPOC Oregonians feel less safe than their white neighbors in local natural areas, with one in four BIPOC Oregonians feeling unsafe spending time in parks near their house or neighborhood. This might be partially due to BIPOC respondents being younger in age (one in four 18 to 29-year-olds report the same).

• Oregonians living in urban areas feel less safe in their neighborhood parks than those living in suburban and rural areas. There is no notable difference in how safe these folks feel in nature preserves.

• Men feel safer than women in natural areas, however, this distinction is more notable in local parks than in nature preserves, with one in five women feeling unsafe spending time in local parks.

In three quotations released by the study’s authors, residents noted the presence of homeless people in parks and natural areas as part of the mix when they consider safety.

“I generally feel safe, but have balance problems that make it difficult to run or move quickly if needed, so not feeling as safe as in the past,” said a white woman, age 75-plus from Clatsop County. “Also, the increased number of guns out there makes me very nervous. I never used to consider getting shot, unless it was hunting season, in which case I did not and don’t wander off into the woods. Now there are many desperate homeless people camped out, and often drugged out, in remote spots. I no longer feel like wandering in the woods alone.”

“My fear of going to parks and natural areas has little to do with fires. It’s more about homelessness and crime,” said a woman, aged 55-64 from Washington County whose race and ethnicity were unknown. 

“Bend’s open spaces are being taken over by the homeless, so I used to feel safe in nature around Bend, but no longer do thanks to the criminal issues that are being ignored,” said a white woman, aged 65-74 from Deschutes County.

ABOUT THE POLL

The online survey consisted of 1,554 Oregon adult residents who were contacted Nov. 10-19, 2022. To ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set and data weighted by region, gender, age, and education. The survey’s margin of error is ±2.48%. Due to rounding or multiple answer questions, response percentages may not add up to 100%. The research was completed by the independent, nonpartisan Oregon Values and Beliefs Center (oregonvbc.org).

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