Feature Article - June 2011
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Parks & Recreation

A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation

By Emily Tipping


Parks & Recreation - The Audience

Respondents from parks and recreation organizations were most likely to report in from the Midwest, with 29.2 percent of these respondents coming from that region. Second was the West, with about a quarter (24.6 percent) of the parks and recreation respondents. The South Atlantic region is home to 19.2 percent of the respondents from parks, while the Northeast is home for 16.4 percent. The smallest percentage within the United States came from the South Central region, with 10.4 percent of the parks respondents. (Just 0.1 percent of the respondents in parks came from outside of the United States.)

Parks respondents were most likely to report in from suburban areas, with 42.9 percent indicating they work in suburban communities. Another 29.3 percent are in rural communities, and 27.9 percent work in urban areas.

Respondents from parks were more likely than others to indicate that they manage more than one facility. Less than a fifth (15.9 percent) manage just a single facility. Nearly one-third (31.6 percent) said they manage 10 or more facilities, with 13.8 percent managing 20 or more facilities. (See Figure 39.)

Parks and recreation agencies often work in close partnership with other organizations in their communities to deliver much-needed programs and services. Whether it's a partnership with a local school to deliver after-school programming or working with local businesses to sponsor a special Fourth of July celebration, parks across the country have found ways to increase their reach by partnering with others. Only 4.8 percent of respondents to our survey from park organizations said they do not partner with any other organizations. (See Figure 40.)

Nearly three-quarters (73.7 percent) of park respondents said they work in concert with local schools. More than two-thirds (67.1 percent) indicate that they work with local government. And more than half (56.3 percent) reported that they work with nonprofit organizations. Other common partners include state government (42.6 percent), corporate entities or local businesses (38 percent) and colleges and universities (31 percent). There was virtually no change from last year in the types of organizations park respondents partner with, nor was there any change in the prevalence of partnerships in general.


Do You Know Why Parks Matter?

A recent synopsis of research, compiled by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) gathers together much of the evidence that supports the various benefits provided by parks, from boosting activity and wellness to helping out local economies.

As the Synopsis states: "The situation facing U.S. parks is stark: A societal resource more popular and beneficial than at any time in history is pitted against those who would cut funding to these very resources."

According to the synopsis, parks provide benefits in the areas of:

  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Social function
  • Youth development
  • Environmental benefits
  • Economic impact

        The full synopsis, as well as other research on the benefits of parks and recreation, can be found at www.nrpa.org/research-papers.