Feature Article - June 2017
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Parks & Recreation

A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation


A majority of parks respondents (94.7 percent) said that they formed partnerships with outside organizations. This compares with 81.3 percent of non-parks respondents. The most common partners for parks were: local schools (72.4 percent of parks respondents partner with them); local government (69.6 percent); nonprofit organizations (55.4 percent); state government (40.1 percent); and corporate or local business (39.4 percent). (See Figure 43.)


Revenues & Expenditures

Revenues for parks respondents have been growing more stable over time, and this year is no exception to that rule, with virtually the same percentage reporting that their revenues had either increased or stayed the same year over year. While 47.5 percent said revenues increased and 44.9 percent said they remained the same from 2014 to 2015, 47.8 percent saw revenues increase and 44.3 percent said they remained the same from 2015 to 2016. (See Figure 44.)

Looking forward, the percentage of respondents who expect revenues to decrease falls over the next two years, from 7.9 percent reporting a revenue decrease in 2016 to 3.2 percent who expect revenues to drop in 2018. At the same time, more than half (51.3 percent) expect revenues to increase both in 2017 and 2018.


Parks respondents reported a sharper increase in their operating expenses from 2015 to 2016 than the average for all respondents. For all respondents, the average operating expenditure increased 17.5 percent from 2015 to 2016, but parks respondents reported a 27.6 percent increase, from an average of $1,903,000 in 2015 to $2,428,000 in 2016. Looking forward, parks respondents also expect their operating expenses to rise faster over the next two years. From 2016 to 2018, parks respondents projected a 4.2 percent increase in average operating expenses, from $2,428,000 to $2,531,000. This compares with a slightly smaller 3.5 percent increase for all respondents, from $2,044,000 to $2,115,000.

On average, parks respondents report that they recover an average of 43.4 percent of their operating costs via revenue, down slightly from 2016, when 45.1 percent of costs were recovered, on average. Among all respondents in 2017, an average of 49.9 percent of costs are recovered via revenues. Slightly more than one-third (34.8 percent) of parks respondents said they recover 30 percent or less of their operating costs via revenue. Another 22.1 percent said they recover between 31 and 50 percent of their operating costs. Some 16.8 percent said they earn back 51 to 70 percent of their costs via revenue. And 18.2 percent of parks respondents earn at least 71 percent of their operating costs back via revenues.

Respondents from parks were among the most likely to report that they had taken actions to reduce their operating expenditures. Some 84.8 percent of parks respondents had done so, compared with 82.2 percent of non-parks respondents. The most common actions parks respondents had taken were: increasing energy efficiency (54.5 percent of parks respondents had done so); increasing fees (49.4 percent); putting construction or renovation plans on hold (33.1 percent); reducing staffing levels (29.2 percent); and cutting programs or services (19.7 percent).