Harnessing citizen science to assess and improve utilization of metropolitan parks: the Park Activity, Recreation, and Community, Study (PARCS) in St. Louis, MO


Access to and use of parks is associated with physical activity participation. Our Voice is a systematic method blending community-based participatory research (CBPR) and citizen science. As part of a comprehensive, mixed-methods study in St. Louis, Missouri (PARCS), we tested the feasibility of the Our Voice method for gathering community input on the barriers to and facilitators of accessibility and use of large metropolitan parks, by describing the implementation of the Our Voice method among recreational and commuter users of a large metropolitan park in St. Louis, MO. Due to challenges posed by COVID-19, the Our Voice methodology was adapted for remote participation. Twenty-three citizen scientists (14 recreational park users and 9 commuters) collected and analyzed geolocated route, photo, and audio or text data on facilitators and barriers to park use and access. They identified 6 priority themes and 12 solution ideas, and presented them to stakeholders. In contrast to previous Our Voice studies, separate user groups (recreation and commuter users) independently prioritized many of the same themes. Adaptation of the Our Voice protocol to virtual practices during COVID-19 revealed positive implications for cost, reach, and scale of studies grounded in CBPR and citizen science. We provide a set of recommended practices for using Our Voice as a method to evaluate and promote equity of access and use of metropolitan parks.



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