PARCS logo

The purpose of PARCS (Park Activity, Recreation and Community Study) is to characterize the spatio-temporal patterns of use, and multi-level determinants of use of large metropolitan parks (specifically, Forest Park, St. Louis). Park access and use are known to have multiple benefits for health, well-being and quality of life. As such, identifying the factors that influence park use in communities can help identify and implement strategies to improve park access equity.

Project Goals

  1. Determine patterns of use over the course of a full calendar year for all areas of Forest Park.
  2. Understand who current park visitors are and what drives them to use the park.
  3. Identify which members and groups of the community are not currently visiting Forest Park and why this is the case.
  4. Develop recommendations to:
  • Improve continue to improve forest park via activities, and resources, to optimize the park visitor experience among current users and to attract new visitors.
  • Better engage with local communities who are not currently taking full advantage of Forest Park.
  • Improve access to the park for local residents who currently find it challenging to visit Forest Park regularly.
  • Establish a park visitor monitoring and evaluation system to track patterns of use and changes in the park.


This two-year study relies on a mixed-methods approach, including:

  • In-person and online intercept surveys
  • Interactive data collection boards
  • Direct observation methods (e.g., SOPARC, crowd counting algorithms)
  • Device-based measures (accelerometers and GPS monitors)
  • Our Voice approach: citizen science + community-based participatory research

Implications of Research and Practice

Few studies of this depth and magnitude have been conducted on large urban parks. This study will inform the development and implementation of park use measurement tools and provide evidence for tools to be implemented at community and organizational levels to improve park use.

Project contact

Deborah Salvo, PhD;

Project Staff

Principal Investigator: Deborah Salvo,PhD
Co- investigators: Ross Brownson, PhD; Amy Eyler, PhD; Rodrigo Ries, PhD
Project Coordinator: Áine O’Connor
External Collaborators: Abby King, PhD; Ann Banchoff, MSW, MPH (Stanford University)
Research Assistants: Eugen Resendiz Bontrud, Michael Paster, and Elisha Tibatemwa

Project Partners

Forest Park Forever, Stanford Prevention Research Center

Project Dates


Funding Source

Forest Park Forever