Park visitation and walkshed demographics in the United States

Kelsey Linnell, Mikaela Fudolig, Laura Bloomfield, Thomas McAndrew, Taylor H. Ricketts, Jarlath P. M. O'Neil-Dunne, Peter Sheridan Dodds, Christopher M. Danforth

A large and growing body of research demonstrates the value of local parks to mental and physical well-being. Recently, researchers have begun using passive digital data sources to investigate equity in usage; exactly who is benefiting from parks? Early studies suggest that park visitation differs according to demographic features, and that the demographic composition of a park's surrounding neighborhood may be related to the utilization a park receives. Employing a data set of park visitations generated by observations of roughly 50 million mobile devices in the US in 2019, we assess the ability of the demographic composition of a park's walkshed to predict its yearly visitation. Predictive models are constructed using Support Vector Regression, LASSO, Elastic Net, and Random Forests. Surprisingly, our results suggest that the demographic composition of a park's walkshed demonstrates little to no utility for predicting visitation.

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