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Human Mobility to Parks under the COVID-19 Pandemic and Wildfire Seasons in the Western and Central United States
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  • Anni Yang,
  • Jue Yang,
  • Di Yang,
  • Rongting Xu,
  • Yaqian He,
  • Amanda Aragon,
  • Han Qiu
Anni Yang
University of Oklahoma
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Jue Yang
Univeristy of georgia

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Di Yang
University of Wyoming,University of Montana
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Rongting Xu
Oregon State University/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
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Yaqian He
University of Central Arkansas
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Amanda Aragon
unversity of georgia
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Han Qiu
University of Wisconsin-Madison
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In 2020, people’s health suffered a great crisis under the dual effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the extensive, severe wildfire in the western and central United States (U.S.). Parks, including city, national, and cultural parks, offer a unique opportunity for people to maintain their recreation behaviors following the social distancing protocols during the pandemics. However, massive forest wildfires in western and central US, producing harmful toxic gases and smoke, pose significant threats to human health and affect their recreation behaviors and visitations to parks. In this study, we employed the Geographically and Temporally Weighted Regression (GTWR) Models to investigate how COVID-19 and wildfires jointly shaped human visitations to parks, regarding the number of visitors, dwell time, and travel distance from home, during June - September 2020. Our findings indicated that people tended to travel closer from home and spent less time at parks as more COVID-19 cases were reported. However, with the stay-at-home restriction lifted and the reopen of some large national parks, people traveled further distances to those places (e.g., Yellowstone National Park) regardless the peak of pandemics in June 2020. Moreover, we found people intended to decrease the visitations to the parks surrounded by wildfires and shorten the time there. This study provides important insights on people’s responses in recreation and social behaviors when facing multiple serve crises that impact their health and wellbeing, which could support the preparation and mitigation of the health impacts from future pandemics and natural hazards.
Dec 2021Published in GeoHealth volume 5 issue 12. 10.1029/2021GH000494