Park Activity, Recreation, and Community Study (PARCS)

St. Louis, MO (2019–2021)

Guiding question: What makes it easy or enjoyable to use a park?

What prevents you from using a park?

Citizen Scientists:

23 adults who identified as frequent (at least weekly) park users. 

Project Description:

In the Park Activity, Recreation, and Community Study (PARCS), citizen scientists evaluated a major metropolitan park in St. Louis, MO. These citizen scientists were frequent users of the park and used it for both recreational and commute-based purposes.

Due to COVID-19 physical distancing measures, the Our Voice protocol for this study has been adapted to allow for both in person and remote participation.

At the end of the project, citizens scientists documented 373 photos of facilitators and barriers to park access and use, coming to a consensus on 6 main themes and 12 solution ideas to enhance community utilization of the park.

Strengths Identified:

  • Beauty of natural features and landscaping
  • Diversity of park amenities
  • Temporary road closures prompted by COVID-19


Identified Areas for Improvement:

  • Traffic safety and driver behavior
  • Poor visitor adherence to path and trail signage
  • Pedestrian/cyclist infrastructure in and around the park
  • Lighting and infrastructure around park entrances
  • Inadequate restroom access throughout the year


Though initially separated, commuter and recreation citizen scientists independently prioritized similar main themes, including the importance of park safety, amenities, and infrastructure.  

Citizen scientists shared these insights with park stakeholders, including representatives from municipal government departments and the park's advisory board. This meeting identified seven action items, including:

  • Seasonal changes to park signage 
  • The potential extension of temporary road closures
  • Establishing a process for regular community feedback regarding park conditions

A second phase of the PARCS Our Voice project was launched in 2021 and involves citizen scientists living close to the park with variable levels of park visitorship. 

Associated Publications:

Harnessing Citizen Science to Assess and Improve Utilization of Metropolitan Parks: the Park Activity, Recreation, and Community Study (PARCS) in St. Louis, MO. O’Connor A, King AC, Banchoff A, Eyler A, Reis R, Brownson RC, Resendiz E, Holland D, Salvo D. Journal of Healthy Eating and Active Living. 2021, Vol. 1, No. 4, 186-203. 

Institutional Partners:

Forest Park Forever, a nonprofit park conservancy; Stanford Prevention Research Center; Washington University Prevention Research Center.

To learn more, contact Áine O’Connor or Deborah Salvo.


Forest Park Forever

Our Voice Impact

"This experience has changed my life.  I see inadequacies everywhere I go as it relates to pedestrian access and safety.  I even stop [at] construction sites to remind them to be considerate of the handicapped in our community.  Thank you all so much for this awareness and empowerment to require change."

~ Pam Jiner, GirlTrek Advocacy Leader, Denver CO