Because of the safety measures taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we have all experienced considerable disruption to how we move and where we go. Google has been compiling data about our collective change in movement – and it shows Marylander’s unebbing attraction to our parks, trails, and open spaces.

Why is Google gathering and sharing this data? “…We’ve heard from public health officials that the same type of aggregated, anonymized insights we use in products such as Google Maps could be helpful as they make critical decisions to combat COVID-19. These Community Mobility Reports aim to provide insights into what has changed in response to policies aimed at combating COVID-19.”

The available data shows percentage changes to visits to places categorized in Google Maps as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential. A recent Google Community Mobility Report pulled for all of Maryland (Google updated the report as of May 16, 2020), which includes data broken out by county, shows:

  • A 144% increase in visits to parks for the state as a whole,
  • while understandably there was a 35% decrease in visits to retail and recreation businesses such as Main Street shops and museums.

This data bears out the anecdotal observations of busier than usual parks and trails during the lockdown, and our attraction and need for open space in Maryland – for fresh air, for exercise, and to visit the places in Maryland that matter to us.

Furthermore, the Mobility Report indicates that funding for park maintenance, enhancements, and acquisition should be encouraged as a part of safe recovery efforts. The easiest way to do this is to invest in and maintain full-funding for programs like Program Open Space and to protect it from future budget cuts.

Additionally, the decrease in mobility to museums points to the need for Maryland to provide the financial support necessary to prevent the permanent closing of the guardians of our state’s history and the backbone of the heritage tourism industry, a huge economic driver and major employment powerhouse. Some museums and historical societies may have to retool their organizational structures, and Preservation Maryland is ready to assist our local partners through our Heritage Fund and technical assistance.

Even this cursory look at available data enhances the basis of proof of what preservation and smart growth supporters certainly know, that Maryland’s natural and historic resources are what make Maryland great.

Sign the Petition in Support of Program Open Space

View Maryland’s Mobility Report (PDF)