Participants needed for study on COVID-19 and outdoor recreation

A team of Brock University researchers want to know how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted outdoor recreation participation patterns before, during and after the start of physical distancing strategies and the closure of outdoor recreation areas in Canada.

Recreation and Leisure Studies Professor Tim O’Connell says this is an opportunity for people to reflect on their outdoor recreation practices and its importance in their lives.

“The study is also exploring how the closure of outdoor recreation areas have impacted individuals’ perceptions of their mental, physical and overall health,” says O’Connell, the study’s principal investigator. “This study is both timely and time-sensitive as all levels of government are reviewing timelines for opening outdoor recreation activities.”

Findings from this study will be shared with government agencies, land managers and private service providers in the hopes of informing future decisions about the opening (or not opening) of public outdoor recreation areas.

Currently, there are vast differences in the timelines for opening recreation spaces in the various regions across Canada. For example, Saskatchewan began limited individual activities for which physical distancing can be maintained on Monday, May 4 and Ontario has started reopening Provincial parks and conservation areas. There are also ongoing discussions with municipalities across cottage country regarding the upcoming Victoria Day long weekend.

The team, which includes co-investigators Recreation and Leisure Studies Associate Professor Garrett Hutson and Adjunct Professor Ryan Howard, hopes the study will provide the added benefit of participants learning more about outdoor recreation opportunities by considering the scope and range of activities available in Canada.

“Outdoor recreation in Canada is often understood as activities that occur in, and are reliant on, the natural environment,” explains O’Connell. “We are very fortunate as Canadians to have a wide range of geographical green and blue spaces, and social contexts for recreation and leisure activities.”

As policy makers began to implement safe physical distancing recommendations in mid-March, outdoor recreation was initially seen by many as an acceptable way of engaging in leisure activities with family and friends. Following media reports of overcrowding in public parks and outdoor recreation areas, these resources were closed to ensure public safety.

“We know that research suggests people are very protective of and emotionally attached to the places in which they engage in outdoor recreation activities,” O’Connell says. “We hope, with reflection, this study will nurture advocacy for natural environments which are used for outdoor recreation purposes to be protected.”

Those interested in participating must be 18 years of age or older and currently live in Canada.

The online survey, which takes 15 to 20 minutes, must be completed by Friday, May 15 at 11:59 p.m.

Questions about the study can be directed to O’Connell at:

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