Press release How do you use your neighborhood park(s)? Handy new online GIS tool can measure social value of public space.


When (re)creating a park or a piece of green public space in a residential neighborhood, traditionally local residents are involved in the plan. At such information evenings or workshops, only a select group appears to respond, usually well-educated, middle-aged people, who live very nearby. In the context of the doctoral work of Nohemi Ramirez Aranda (ILVO-UGent), a useful online PPGIS tool has now been developed that can be used by green developers, (landscape) architects and municipal authorities to digitally retrieve signals from citizens.

PPGIS stands for "Public Participation Integrated into the Geographic Information System.

Nohemi Ramirez Aranda (ILVO-UGent): "The comments or wishes you give about your green space are immediately stored, managed, edited, integrated and presented as geographic objects with appropriate location data. From your computer or your smartphone, you literally map your activities, reviews, ... digitally."

Young people, the elderly, people without a formal education or people with a foreign background who were not classically reached with the traditional participation formulas, can thus easily participate in the interpretation of "their" public space. This became clear from the experiments carried out in Ghent and Brussels.

My Green Place

Nohemi Ramirez Aranda examined green open spaces both in the center of Ghent and along the Woluwe on the outskirts of Brussels. Her research shows which parks are intensively used and which green open spaces still have underutilized potential.

"Such information can be used to give much more accurate direction to future development projects. The monetary aspects and the ecological (added) values -water buffering, CO2 capture...- are quickly in the picture when investing in green urban spaces or small parks. The social value that people attach to a place is not always clear and much more difficult to map," says Jeroen De Waegemaeker, co-promotor and expert in spatial planning (ILVO).

As more people indicate online what their favorite green space is and what they use it for (biking, hiking, sports,...) an overview of cultural ecosystem services is created.

"We see many future possibilities in this technology to better capture the use value of, and appreciation for, open space when developing landscape design plans. In this way, one can better protect the open space" clarified co-promotor Prof. Nico Van de Weghe, expert in GIS.


Through the use of digital markers, My Green Place feels very intuitive and does not require respondents to have GIS experience. The PhD of Nohemi Ramirez Aranda shows that such method is much more user-friendly than classic, existing PPGIS tools without loss of data quality.

Applicable in practice

The usability and usefulness of the tool has been substantiated. That does not mean that the applications will automatically follow. However, a rollout of the tool to the field encounters several obstacles, mostly the result of "unknown is unloved. Therefore, Nohemi Ramirez Aranda advocates pilot projects for the use of PPGIS tools within public administrations to clarify its power and added value for planners.

RECOMS project

The development of “My green space” is a nice result of the international training project RECOMS. In it, 15 young researchers ('Early Stage Researchers', ESRs) had to learn about and support a particular community as an expat in order to steer the living environment in a more sustainable, planet-friendly direction. In this PhD, in a Flemish context, this translated into a study that took as its starting point the great pressure on open space and population density.

Video in English

RECOMS fellow Nohemi Ramirez Aranda talks about her tool My Green Place and her PhD research at Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO) and Ghent University. In her research Nohemi maps cultural ecosystem services in urban open spaces through public participatory GIS (PPGIS). The RECOMS project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 765389.



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Jeroen De Waegemaeker

ILVO researcher