Philly Parks Dept: City parks saw 50% more visitors in 2020

Signs posted along Philadelphia's Schuylkill River Trail caution users to keep six feet away from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Signs posted along Philadelphia's Schuylkill River Trail caution users to keep six feet away from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

It was an odd question none of us expected to be asking ourselves before the pandemic: “Is it OK to go outside?”

The answer was yes, of course;  as long as you stayed away from others.

For tens of thousands of Philadelphians, that meant lots of trips to the park.

Philly Parks and Recreation staff estimate at least a 50% jump in visitors to city parks during this year defined by the coronavirus pandemic and the measures taken to curb its spread.

MLK Drive, which city officials closed to vehicle traffic in March to create more space for outdoor recreation, saw an even more dramatic jump. There was a 1,300% increase in biker and pedestrian traffic. That’s going from less than 500 visitors any given day pre-pandemic time, to more than 5,000 a day now.

Social distancing is easy in these outdoor bits of the city, and so is the other half of flattening the curve: masking.

By the end of 2020, city agencies handed out more than 8,000 masks to folks at the spots like the Schuylkill River Trail and FDR Park.

It’s important to note though, officials estimate the number of visitors to these places by measuring the trash they leave behind. So, a friendly reminder to take your trash with you after each visit.

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