Using social media to understand drivers of urban park visitation in the Twin Cities, MN

Computers, Environment and urban systems.

Distribution of urban park and green space polygons in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area

Assistant professor of urban planning Zoé Hamstead and collaborators use social media data to measure patterns of urban park visitation and assess factors influencing use.

Green space and parks in urban environments provide a range of ecosystem services and public benefits. However, planners and park managers can lack tools and resources to gather local information on how parks are used and what makes them desirable places for recreation and a wide variety of uses. Traditional survey methods to monitor park use and user preferences can be costly, time consuming, and challenging to apply at scale. Here, this study overcomes this limitation by using geotagged social media data to assess patterns of visitation to urban and peri-urban green space across park systems in the metropolitan area of the Twin Cities, Minnesota, USA. This paper finds that parks with nearby water features, more amenities, greater accessibility from the presence of trails, and that are located within neighborhoods with higher population density, are associated with higher rates of visitation. As cities grow and shifts in demographics occur, more responsive management of public green space will become increasingly important to ensure urban parks provide ecosystem services and meet users’ needs. Using social media data to rapidly assess park use at a lower cost than traditional surveys has the potential to inform public green space management with targeted information on user behavior and values of urban residents.


Zoé Hamstead, Assistant Professor
Department of Urban & Regional Planning

Marie L. Donahue
Bonnie L. Keeler
The Natural Capital Project, Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota, St Paul

Spencer A. Wood
Center for Creative Conservation, University of Washington, Seattle
The Natural Capital Project, Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University

David M.Fisher
The Natural Capital Project, Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University

Timon McPhearson
Urban Systems Lab, The New School, New York City
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, New York
Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden


Landscape and Urban Planning

Date Published