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Using smart-device GPS data to understand visitor use of green spaces

Parks are crucial elements for human and ecosystem well-being. While parks contribute to human health by providing space for exercise, socialization, and respite, they also offer a suite of ecosystem services such as pollination, pest control, and temperature regulation. Urban parks also yield economic benefits, raising property values, supporting wildlife conservation, and promoting social equity through affordable recreation.

Accurate measurement of park accessibility and human activity is vital for effective park management that benefits both wildlife and visitors. However, understanding park usage remains a challenge because of unrestricted boundaries and impractical methods of quantifying visitors.

Leveraging anonymized GPS data from smart devices can be a powerful tool for park management by quantifying and understanding how visitors use green spaces. In partnership with Mapbox, the School of Cities, and the University of Toronto Scarborough, ApexRMS is leading the development of methods that use anonymized mobility data for park management. A research insights document was recently released by the School of Cities highlighting the current state of the partnership, including notable findings from our first collaborative publication.

Well-informed park policies are crucial to ensure equitable access and distribution of benefits for societal health and we’re thrilled to be a part of this initiative.