HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Director, Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard University
Emma Bloomberg Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Management


Abstract Introduction The COVID-19 pandemic focused attention on city parks as important public resources. However, monitoring park use over time poses practical challenges. Thus, pandemic-related trends are unknown. Methods We analyzed monthly mobility data from a large panel of smartphone devices, to assess park visits from January 2018 to November 2020 in the 50 largest U.S. cities. Results In our sample of 11,890 city parks, visits declined by 36.0 % (95 % CI [27.3, 43.6], p 0.001) from March through November 2020, compared to prior levels and trends. When we segmented the COVID-19 period into widespread closures (March–April) and reopenings (May–November), we estimated a small rebound in visits during reopenings. In park service areas where a greater proportion of residents were White and highincome, this rebound effect was larger. Conclusions Smartphone data can address an important gap for monitoring park visits. Park visits declined substantially in 2020 and disparities appeared to increase.


Jay, Jonathan, Felicia Heykoop, Linda Hwang, Jorrit de Jong, and Michelle Kondo. "Use of smartphone mobility data to analyze city park visits during the COVID-19 pandemic." Landscape and Urban Planning 228 (December 2022): 104554.