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  1. This paper describes an attempt to utilize paid citizen science in a research project that documented urban park usage during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in two U.S. cities. Strategies used by the research team to recruit, pay, and evaluate the experiences of the 43 citizen scientists are discussed alongside key challenges in contemporary citizen science. A literature review suggests that successful citizen science projects foster diverse and inclusive participation; develop appropriate ways to compensate citizen scientists for their work; maximize opportunities for participant learning; and ensure high standards for data quality. In this case study, the selection process proved successful in employing economically vulnerable individuals, though the citizen scientist participants were disproportionately female, young, White, non-Hispanic, single, and college educated relative to the communities studied. The participants reported that the financial compensation provided by the study, similar in amount to the economic stimulus checks distributed simultaneously by the Federal government, were reasonable given the workload, and many used it to cover basic household needs. Though the study took place in a period of high economic risk, and more than 80% of the participants had never participated in a scientific study, the experience was rated overwhelmingly positive. Participants reported that the work provided stress relief, indicated they would consider participating in similar research in the future. Despite the vast majority never having engaged in most park stewardship activities, they expressed interest in learning more about park usage, mask usage in public spaces, and socio-economic trends in relation to COVID-19. Though there were some minor challenges in data collection, data quality was sufficient to publish the topical results in a peer-reviewed companion paper. Key insights on the logistical constraints faced by the research team are highlighted throughout the paper to advance the case for paid citizen science. 
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  2. null (Ed.)
    Urban parks and green spaces provide a wide range of ecosystem services, including social interaction and stress reduction. When COVID-19 closed schools and businesses and restricted social gatherings, parks became one of the few places that urban residents were permitted to visit outside their homes. With a focus on Philadelphia, PA and New York City, NY, this paper presents a snapshot of the park usage during the early phases of the pandemic. Forty-three Civic Scientists were employed by the research team to observe usage in 22 different parks selected to represent low and high social vulnerability, and low, medium, and high population density. Despite speculation that parks could contribute to the spread of COVID-19, no strong correlation was found between the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in adjacent zip codes and the number of park users. High social vulnerability neighborhoods were associated with a significantly higher number of COVID-19 cases ([Formula: see text]). In addition, no significant difference in the number of park users was detected between parks in high and low vulnerability neighborhoods. The number of park users did significantly increase with population density in both cities ([Formula: see text]), though usage varied greatly by park. Males were more frequently observed than females in parks in both high vulnerability and high-density neighborhoods. Although high vulnerability neighborhoods reported higher COVID-19 cases, residents of Philadelphia and New York City appear to have been undeterred from visiting parks during this phase of the pandemic. This snapshot study provides no evidence to support closing parks during the pandemic. To the contrary, people continued to visit parks throughout the study, underscoring their evident value as respite for urban residents during the early phases of the pandemic. 
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