Landmark study reveals importance of accessing recreational areas in Fort Wayne

The Knight Foundation-commissioned report also reveals while most residents feel these amenities are important, a national gap in access to these areas exists along racial and economic lines.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – A new groundbreaking study commissioned by  Knight Foundation and conducted by the Urban Institute finds that many Fort Wayne metro area residents report easy access to recreational areas, which could deepen their ties to the community. Nationally, the report found that racial and economic disparities in accessing these amenities may exist in urban communities such as Greater Fort Wayne.

  • In Greater Fort Wayne, most residents report they have easy access to recreational areas (89%), slightly above the national average (85%).
  • Nationally, this study found that while recreational areas ultimately could create more attachment between residents and their community, low-income residents and residents of color often feel that these amenities are less accessible to them than higher-income, white residents.

“This study shows that Fort Wayne is able to connect residents with what matters most to them,” said Lilly Weinberg, Knight’s senior director of community and national initiatives. “Fort Wayne can continue to build a vibrant community by focusing on recreation areas in particular, as the city works to invest in revitalizing the riverfront. Improving access to these areas through a variety of investment strategies is an important step in making sure recreational amenities continue to build stronger, more lasting connections between residents and their community.”

Conducted prior to the COVID-19 shutdowns, Community Ties leverages a survey of over 11,000 Americans residing in metro areas across the country — including Fort Wayne — to create one of the richest datasets on what drives attachment to place. 

  • Those with access to quality of life amenities such as arts, recreational areas and safe places to live, work and play reported a deeper attachment to their community, compared with those who did not. 
  • The Fort Wayne data reveals how attached local residents are to the metro area and where gaps in access exist across urban amenities. It offers points of consideration for such leaders such as boosting time in the city, focusing on quality of life and paying attention to issues of equity, to strengthen residents’ ties to their communities.

As cities plan for a post-COVID-19 world and reckon with racial justice, the report provides knowledge for public officials and other community leaders to help make cities more resilient, urban public spaces more equitable, and think anew about how to build places where people want to live, work, play and stay. 


To see how your city compares in different areas with other Knight communities and the national averages, go to our interactive website.

For interviews, please contact Alexa Lamanna at [email protected] or 202-320-2766.

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About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit kf.org.

About Urban Institute  

The nonprofit Urban Institute is a leading research organization dedicated to developing evidence-based insights that improve people’s lives and strengthen communities. For 50 years, Urban has been the trusted source for rigorous analysis of complex social and economic issues; strategic advice to policymakers, philanthropists and practitioners; and new, promising ideas that expand opportunities for all. Our work inspires effective decisions that advance fairness and enhance the well-being of people and places.


Image (top) by Uniq Trek on Unsplash.