Safety in Natural Areas

Do Oregonians feel safe spending time in natural areas like parks in their neighborhood or nature preserves in their area of Oregon?

From November 10–19, 2022, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs including a few questions about Oregonians’ feelings of safety in natural areas. A description of the methodology used for the research is provided below.

The question numbers in this document correspond with the accompanying annotated questionnaire. Due to rounding, the percentages reported below may not add to 100% or compare exactly to the percentages for the same question in the annotated questionnaire or tabs.

Included below for selected questions are noteworthy subgroups variations for BIPOC/white, age, urban/rural, education, gender, and households with and without children. The accompanying set of tabs notes subgroup variations for all the questions.

OVBC surveys currently use aggregated data to analyze the opinions of BIPOC residents in comparison to the opinions of residents who identify as white and not another race. BIPOC residents are not a monolith; the grouping represents a wide diversity of races and ethnicities. The findings included in this memo should not be construed such that all people of color are believed to share the same opinions. Disaggregated race data will be provided when sample sizes permit reliability.

For survey full question wording, all statistically significant subgroup findings, and respondent quotes, readers are encouraged to refer to the accompanying three documents: (1) annotated questionnaire, (2) crosstabulations document, and (3) verbatim written responses spreadsheet.

Oregon Values and Beliefs Center (OVBC): This research was completed as a community service by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center. OVBC is an independent and non-partisan organization and an Oregon charitable nonprofit corporation. Representative OVBC projects include opinion research about race-based crimes for the Asian Health and Service Center, as well as research about early childhood education and the cost of childcare for the Children’s Institute.

Safety in Natural Areas

A strong majority of Oregonians feel safe in their local natural areas (Q65-66).

  • Younger Oregonians feel less safe than older Oregonians in both neighborhood parks and nature preserves.
  • Those with a high school education or less, those 18-29 years old, BIPOC Oregonians, and those with children tend to feel the least safe in natural areas.
  • 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 18–29-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.

“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 past. 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.”

Woman, age 75+, Clatsop County, White

“My fear of going to parks and natural areas has little to do with fires. It’s more about homelessness and crime.”

Woman, age 55-64, Washington County, Prefers not to disclose race or ethnicity

“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.”

Woman, age 65-74, Deschutes County, White

Methodology

The online survey consisted of 1,554 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. Respondents were contacted by using professionally maintained online panels. In gathering responses, a variety of quality control measures were employed, including questionnaire pre-testing, validation, and real-time monitoring of responses. To ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set, and data weighted by area of the state, gender, age, and education.

Statement of Limitations

Based on a 95% confidence interval, this survey’s margin of error for the full sample ±2.48%. Due to rounding or multiple answer questions, response percentages may not add up to 100%.

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