What is it about?

We used social media data to look at how the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent order to shut down parks affected park usage. We found that park visitation increased dramatically with the onset of the pandemic, going up by more than 60%. When parks were ordered to shut down due to fear of virus spread, visitation in closed parks to decline by more than 75%, whereas parks that remained open (parks not subject to the shutdown order) continued to experience elevated visitation levels. Visitation then returned to elevated pre-shutdown levels when closed parks were allowed to reopen.

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Why is it important?

This study indicates that parks continue to play an important role in society, particularly when other opportunities for recreation are limited. This study also suggest that people do listen to government policies, especially during periods of crisis.


While it has long been known that parks provide important services, this study adds a new dimension to that fact -- parks continue to be there even when the rest of society shuts down. As such, we should continue investing in parks and establishing new parks (especially in underserved communities), as they are a widely accessible, consistent, and multifaceted public resource.

Joel Abraham
Princeton University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Public parks and the pandemic: How park usage has been affected by COVID-19 policies, PLoS ONE, May 2021, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0251799.
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