Predicting physical distancing on recreational trails during COVID-19

Ingrid E. Schneider, Julian A. Wolfson, Wyatt J. Tarter, Christopher J. Wynveen, Megha S. Budruk, Heather J. Gibson, William W. Hendricks, Kimberly J. Shinew, Taylor V. Stein, Deonne VanderWoude

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The emergence of Coronavirus 19 led to societal and behavioral changes, including intensified use of many public parks and trails for mental respite and leisure time physical activity. As visitors sought stress-relief in the great outdoors, they also encountered stressful situations as they navigated risk exposure. Recommendations to physically distance between parties was a key component to reduce risk, but compliance is unknown in the outdoor arena. This observational study of more than 10 000 trail user encounters documented distancing and enabled predictive analysis that revealed wider trails, smaller groups and signage led to greater distancing compliance. Managers and planners can integrate these findings immediately and in consideration of future trail designs to minimize risk exposure. Management implications: Select site features increase odds of distancing compliance and can inform management decisions and designs immediately and in addressing future use surges: wider trails, unpaved surfaces, and COVID-19 signage. As distancing compliance waned with time but signage increased compliance, innovative and dynamic signs may sustain compliance and multi-media communications should be considered. Both activity size and group type influence distancing so considering group size recommendations and activity separation are in order.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100482
JournalJournal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • Constraints
  • Design
  • Fear
  • Signage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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