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BACKGROUND: The coronavirus pandemic greatly disrupted the lives of people. Restrictions introduced worldwide to limit the spread of infection included stay-at-home orders, closure of venues, restrictions to travel and limits to social contacts. During this time, parks and outdoor greenspaces gained prominent attention as alternative location for respite. Population mobility data offers a unique opportunity to understand the impact of the pandemic on outdoor behaviour. We examine the role of the restrictions on park use throughout the full span of the pandemic while controlling for weather and region. METHODS: This study provides a longitudinal population analysis of park visitation using Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports data in the UK. Daily park visitation was plotted and ANOVA analyses tested season and year effects in visitation. Then, regressions examined park visitation beyond weather (temperature and rain), according to COVID-19 restrictions, while controlling for region specificities through unit fixed effect models. RESULTS: Time series and ANOVA analyses documented the significant decrease in park visitation in the spring of 2020, the seasonal pattern in visitation, and an overall sustained and elevated use over nearly three years. Regressions confirmed park visitation increased significantly when temperature was greater and when it rained less. More visitation was also seen when there were fewer COVID-19 cases and when the stringency level of restrictions was lower. Of special interest, a significant interaction effect was found between temperature and stringency, with stringency significantly supressing the effect of higher temperature on visitation. CONCLUSIONS: COVID-19 restrictions negatively impacted park visitation on warm days. Given the general health, social, and wellbeing benefits of greenspace use, one should consider the collateral negative impact of restrictions on park visitation. When social distancing of contacts is required, the few remaining locations where it can safely occur should instead be promoted.

Original publication




Journal article


Environ Res

Publication Date





COVID-19, Greenspace, Mobility data, Park use, Time-series, United Kingdom