The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions led to a worldwide increase in greenspace use. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraged policies including physical distancing and COVID-related signage. However, the extent to which these policies influenced behavior is unknown. To fill this gap, we report on a 2020 observational study at 14 trails across six U.S. states framed within a social-ecological model. Behavioral observations of 8,093 groups assessed compliance rates with infection-mitigation behaviors. Additionally, we noted the presence of COVID-related signs, the days between the observation and stay-at-home order start date, the setting (i.e., urban, suburban, and wildland-urban interface), and correlation with the distance between groups that encountered one another. Group size, presence of signage, days since stay-at-home order implementation, and trail setting significantly correlated with physical distancing compliance, while controlling for trail design and encounter rate. Hence, both policy and setting appear to influence COVID-19 mitigation behavior.
Wynveen, Christopher, Ingrid Schneider, Deonne VanderWoude, Taylor Stein, Heather Gibson, Kim Shinew, William Hendricks, and Megha Budruk. 2022. "Implications of COVID-19 Mitigation Policies on Recreational Trail Users: Exploring Antecedents to Physical Distancing on Trails Across the Rural-Urban Continuum." Journal of Rural Social Sciences, 37(2): Article 5. Available at: https://egrove.olemiss.edu/jrss/vol37/iss2/5