Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on park visitation measured by social media


The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession have negatively affected many people’s physical, social, and psychological health. Parks and green-spaces may have ameliorated the negative effects of the pandemic by creating opportunities for outdoor recreation and nature exposure, while other public activities and gatherings were restricted due to risk of disease transmissions. Using park visitation estimates derived from 140K Instagram images shared in four US metropolitan areas, this study investigates trends in park use over the span of the COVID-19 pandemic. We find that while COVID-related stay-at-home orders are associated with shifts in park visitation, the cities that we analysed do not follow uniform trends. Our analyses suggest that future research may be able to explain variability in park visitation based on local factors such as park location and the socio-demographics of visitors. However, the research community does not currently have access to the volume and resolution of data that is necessary to study the issue. There is an urgent need for the CSCW community and social computing researchers to address this data gap if we are to understand the impacts of the pandemic, plan for urban resiliency, and ensure equitable access to parks and other shared resources.

Companion Publication of the 2021 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing