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GMRPTC Director’s Report: Location-based Data Research

Below is a message from GMRPTC Executive Director Renee Mattson. You can reach her at

Two years ago, the Parks and Trails Legacy partners—the MN Department of Natural Resources, Metropolitan Council Regional Parks, and Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission (GMRPTC)—embarked on a joint research project. The research was rooted in location-based data from software company StreetLight Data, which gathers anonymized cell phone information to gain an empirical understanding of how roads, sidewalks, recreation areas, and transit systems interact.

The project was headed by Raven McKnight, a data research scientist affiliated with the Met Council, in coordination with another Met Council research scientist, Ellen Esch. The first year’s research focused on the parks in the three systems, as well as GMRPTC designation eligible parks—meaning these parks had applied for and received a High rank on their designation application but had not yet submitted a Master Plan for review and scoring.

The second year of the project looked at trails in the three systems and again included designation-eligible trails in Greater Minnesota.

At the end of the two-year research project, a series of webinars over four days described a different aspect of the findings, allowing for questions from the attendees.

Now, a summary of the research and the webinars are available for review and study by anyone interested in learning more about this important project! The information presented allows users to compare and contrast park or trail visitation against other facilities in the three systems.

The project was thorough and complex, so the best way to begin understanding what the research showed and how the information was gathered is to visit the new project website and listen to the webinar recordings, which are listed below:

As previously mentioned, this joint project would not be possible without support from the Parks and Trails Legacy – Coordination Among Partners Fund. So, please take a moment to explore the website and the vast trove of information available!