Feature Article - June 2018
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Parks & Recreation

A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation

Parks respondents are much more likely than non-parks respondents to report that they have plans to add more features at their facilities over the next three years. More than half (56.2 percent) of parks respondents said they will be adding features at their facilities (up from 51.8 percent in 2017), while 34.3 percent of non-parks respondents have such plans.

The most commonly planned additions for parks respondents include:

  1. Splash play areas (planned by 31.4 percent of parks respondents who will be adding features)
  2. Dog parks (20.8 percent)
  3. Fitness trails and outdoor fitness equipment (20.6 percent)
  4. Walking and hiking trails (17.8 percent)
  5. Synthetic turf sports fields (16.9 percent)
  6. Playgrounds (16.4 percent)
  7. Disc golf courses (15.6 percent)
  8. Park shelters (15.3 percent)
  9. Park restroom structures (13.9 percent)
  10. Bike trails (13.9 percent)

Features that are planned by more respondents in 2018 than in 2017 include: splash play areas (up from 29.2 percent); dog parks (up from 17 percent); walking and hiking trails (up from 17.6 percent); and disc golf courses (up from 13.8 percent). Synthetic turf sports fields and bike trails did not appear in the top 10 planned features in 2017. They replace Wi-Fi services and fitness centers.


Parks respondents were more likely than non-parks respondents to report that they provide programming of some kind at their facilities. While 95.3 percent of non-parks respondents provide programs, 99.5 percent of parks respondents do so.

The most common programs found in parks and recreation respondents' lineup include: holiday events and other special events (82 percent of parks respondents include them); youth sports teams (75.6 percent); day camps and summer camps (71 percent); adult sports teams (63.9 percent); programs for active older adults (63.1 percent); fitness programs (62.8 percent); arts and crafts (62.6 percent); educational programs (62 percent); mind-body balance programs like yoga and tai chi (60.9 percent), and festivals and concerts (56.6 percent).

There were increases in the number of parks respondents providing youth sports teams, day camps and summer camps, adult sports teams, programs for active older adults, fitness programs, mind-body balance programs, and festivals and concerts.

Parks respondents were far more likely than non-parks respondents to report that they plan to add more programming options at their facilities over the next three years. Some 39.6 percent of parks respondents said they have such plans (up from 38.4 percent in 2017), compared with 26.4 percent of non-parks respondents.

The most commonly planned program additions in 2018 for parks include:

  1. Environmental education programs (no change from 2017)
  2. Fitness programs (up from No. 3)
  3. Teen programming (down from No. 2)
  4. Educational programs (up from No. 5)
  5. Mind-body balance programs such as yoga (down from No. 4)
  6. Day camps and summer camps (up from No. 8)
  7. Special needs programs (did not appear in 2017)
  8. Adult sports teams (did not appear in 2017)
  9. Individual sports activities like running clubs (did not appear in 2017)
  10. Sport-specific training like tennis or golf lessons (did not appear in 2017)