“Nothing Beats Nature”: Park Visitor Preferences for Natural Turfgrass and Artificial Turf: A Case Study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Green spaces comprising natural turfgrass are ubiquitous in urban areas globally and allow for a variety of ecosystem services that benefit nature and people. However, traditional natural turfgrass is often critiqued for the number of inputs (e.g., fertilizer, water) required to maintain it. With those critiques in mind, some cities have turned to artificial turf as an alternative groundcover despite environmental and human health concerns (e.g., heavy metal leaching, volatile organic compounds). Research of artificial turf has been minimal compared with that of the growth of installations, especially related to social aspects of the surface. The current research used an in-person experiential case study of park visitors in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area of Minneapolis–St. Paul, MN, USA, to investigate how individuals perceived artificial turf compared with natural turfgrass as it relates to potential uses (e.g., resting/relaxing) and beliefs about sustainability (e.g., environmental impacts). Overall, participants preferred natural turfgrass across all uses but two (recreational and organized sports). The largest differences were observed for the use for picnic areas and the use for play areas for pets. Participants also perceived natural turfgrass as more sustainable than artificial turf, corresponding to the contribution to human health and well-being. In contrast, participants equally perceived the use of these surfaces in terms of natural resources. These findings have implications for public land managers, urban planners, city councils, and other stakeholders because they consider the adoption of artificial turf or other possible alternatives (e.g., low-input turfgrasses, bee lawns) to traditional turfgrass in the communities and their sustainability, maintenance, and cost-savings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-458
Number of pages6
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Received for publication 6 Jan 2023. Accepted for publication 9 Feb 2023. Published online 14 Mar 2023. We knowledge funding support from the Washington Turfgrass Seed Commission. We thank the surveyors A. Alcala, L. Underwood, and Z. Zuther, who facilitated data collection for this project, and the participants who gave their time to complete the survey. M.R.B. is the corresponding author. E-mail: mrbarnes@ umn.edu. This is an open access article distributed under the CC BY-NC-ND license (https://creativecommons. org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Society for Horticultural Science. All rights reserved.


  • greenspace
  • lawns
  • parks
  • recreation
  • sustainability
  • urban


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