The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) today presented poll results to the Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council (CNRAC) indicating four out of five Pennsylvanians who visited parks and trails believe that time spent outdoors is essential to their physical and mental health during the pandemic.

“The poll results confirm what we have been seeing with our visitation numbers — that Pennsylvanians are turning to the outdoors for healthy activity and solace during the challenging times of the pandemic,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “That interest in the outdoors also has a positive impact on our economy and small businesses, as people try new activities and purchase the related gear.”

Survey questions in a Lion Poll conducted by the Center for Survey Research at Penn State Harrisburg of 1,001 Pennsylvanians during fall 2020 indicate:

  • Eighty-six percent of those who visited parks, trails or open spaces agree time spent in these areas has been essential to their mental and/or physical health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Seventy-five percent agree that funding outdoor recreation facilities, such as parks, trails, and open spaces, should be considered a top priority by state and local governments.
  • Thirty-seven percent of respondents said their interest in learning new outdoor recreation hobbies/skills increased since the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic began.

Related to the economic impact of outdoor recreation, respondents indicated:

  • About one out of five tried a new outdoor recreation activity.
  • One out of five bought outdoor recreation equipment, gear or clothing. Of those who answered yes, 42 percent spent $50-$249 dollars, almost 17 percent spent $250 to $499, 10 percent spent $500-$749, and about five percent spent $1,000 or more.
  • About half visited a local trail or park.

Pennsylvania state park and forest lands have remained open and accessible to all during the pandemic for outdoor recreation because of their importance to mental and physical health.

State park attendance increased from 37 million in 2019 to more than 46.9 million in 2020, a 26.6 percent increase.

DCNR saw an increase of 7.5 million users/visits to its website in 2020 over the previous year, including more than 4 million new users.

During the council meeting, CNRAC members also heard presentations from the directors of the bureaus of State Parks and Forestry about the impacts to state parks and forests during the pandemic and changes they anticipate will be needed to address sustained interest in these lands.

To help avoid exposure to COVID-19 and still enjoy the outdoors:

  • Don’t hike or recreate in groups — go with those under the same roof, and adhere to social distancing (stay 6 feet apart)
  • Avoid crowded parking lots and trailheads
  • Bring a bag and either carry out your trash or dispose of it properly
  • Clean up after pets
  • Avoid activities that put you at greater risk of injury, so you don’t require a trip to the emergency room
  • Take hand sanitizer with you and use it regularly
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, and nose
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or flexed elbow
  • If you are sick, stay home