Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Economics



Major Advisor

Lee Parton, Ph.D.


Samia Islam, Ph.D.


Jayash Paudel, Ph.D.


A number of studies have examined park visitation patterns and consumer preferences using available national and state park visitation data (Kupfer et al., 2021; Volenec et al., 2021; Wood et al., 2013; Yan et al., 2021a). However, municipal park visitation remains largely understudied due to the difficulty and costliness associated with data collection and analysis. This study utilizes high frequency mobile device location data to measure changes in municipal and state park visitation caused by COVID-19 response policies. We exploit spatial and temporal variation in COVID-19 mandates at the county level in the U.S. state of Idaho and at the state level in the United States to identify the causal effect of mandates on park visitation. The research finds that people were more likely to recreate in, and come from, areas with less restrictions. One may expect the same people that preferred regions without mandates to come from areas with mandates as a way to avoid strict at-home measures. However, it would seem the opposite is true. Visitation rates were about seven percent lower in areas with a mask mandate than would be expected if no policies were in place. Our research brings insight on the behavioral response to restrictions and on recreational choice behavior. Estimates of visitation patterns based on visitors’ origin states indicate that of the people who recreate in Idaho, a state with limited COVID-19 response, the from out-of-state visitation rate was 21 percent less for visitors from states with mask mandates than that of visitors from states without mask mandates.


Included in

Economics Commons