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Feature Article - June 2018

Parks & Recreation

A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation


A majority of parks respondents (95.8 percent) said that they form partnerships with outside organizations, up from 94.7 percent in 2017. This compares with 80.3 percent of non-parks respondents. The most common partners for parks are: local schools (75.5 percent of parks respondents partner with them); local government (67.4 percent); nonprofit organizations (57.5 percent); corporate and local businesses (42.2 percent); and state government (37.5 percent). (See Figure 43.)


Revenues & Expenditures

Revenues for parks respondents continue to see growing stability this year, with 46.7 percent reporting that their revenues did not change from 2016 to 2017, up from 44.3 percent who saw no change from 2015 to 2016. That said, the number who reported a decrease in revenues grew from 7.9 percent (2015 to 2016) to 9.1 percent (2016 to 2017), and the number reporting an increase fell from 47.8 percent (2015 to 2016) to 44.2 percent (2016 to 2017). (See Figure 44.)


Looking forward, more parks respondents said they expect their revenues to increase, with more than half (51 percent) projecting an increase in 2018, and half (50 percent) projecting an increase in 2019. At the same time, the percentage who expect revenues to fall holds steady for 2018 at 9.1 percent, but falls to 3.4 percent for 2019.

Parks respondents reported a steeper decrease to their operating expenses from 2016 to 2017 than the average for all respondents, but looking forward, they expect revenues to increase at a faster pace. From 2016 to 2017, the average operating expense fell by 11.9 percent for all respondents, while parks respondents reported a drop of 16.8 percent, from an average of $2,428,000 in 2017 to $2,020,000 in 2018. Looking forward, parks respondents projected a 7.4 percent increase in their average operating expenses, from $2,020,000 in 2017 to $2,170,000 in 2019. This compares with a smaller 6.7 percent increase for all respondents.

On average, parks respondents report that they recover 43.9 percent of their operating costs via revenue, representing virtually no change from 2017, when 43.4 percent of costs were recovered, on average. 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 20.2 percent said they recover between 31 percent and 50 percent of their operating costs. Some 17.6 percent earn back 51 percent to 70 percent of their costs via revenue. And 18.1 percent of parks respondents earn back at least 71 percent of their operating costs via revenue.

Respondents from parks were slightly more likely than non-parks respondents to report that they have taken action to reduce their operating expenses. Some 80.9 percent of parks respondents said they had done so, compared with 80.2 percent of non-parks respondents. The most common actions parks respondents have taken to reduce expenses include: increasing fees (51 percent of parks had done so, up from 49.4 percent in 2017); improving energy efficiency (48.9 percent); putting construction or renovation plans on hold (28.5 percent); reducing staff levels (25.8 percent); and reducing hours of operation (18.3 percent).

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