Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis


Ecology and Environmental Science


Jessica Leahy

Committee Members

Kathleen Bell, Adam Gibson, Melissa Ladenheim, Katherine Ruskin

Graduation Year

May 2022

Publication Date

Spring 5-2022


The COVID-19 pandemic has motivated alterations to the way people approach and practice outdoor recreation. Access to outdoor areas has changed rapidly in response to measures like travel bans, closures, and health and safety guidelines. Recreation managers have had to act quickly to keep up with these visitor use fluctuations in order to protect resources from use degradation. I explored how pandemic effects have changed visitation behaviors and trends in outdoor recreation in Acadia National Park and the White Mountain National Forest. Acadia National Park is a well-known and highly trafficked outdoor recreation area with over 3 million visits annually and many entries and exits; the White Mountain National Forest, has similar diffuse entries, has diverse recreation opportunities, and sees less overall visitation than Acadia. This study includes a review of relevant literature on COVID-19 effects on outdoor recreation, an exploration of the use of passive use cellular data derived from the data company StreetLight for visitation estimates, and an analysis of survey data from 2020-2021 about COVID-19 impacts on Acadia visitors and visitor demographics. This paper is unique in that it includes passive use cellular data for examining visitation shifts during the pandemic in diffuse entry outdoor recreation areas. Results indicate that in addition to changes in the overall visitation to these outdoor recreation areas, pandemic visitation also saw shifts in visitor demographics. Additionally, passive cellular data were useful in estimating visitation volume within recreation areas. It is likely there are several areas where recreation managers could incorporate StreetLight InSight analysis results and data gathering techniques into their operations to improve existing outdoor recreation practices.