Guest Column - January 2010
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Parks & the Economy

Tough Times Require Leadership

By David N. Emanuelson Ph.D. and Tod J. Stanton

The three studies show that fiscal conservatives are far from correct in their assumptions that during tough economic times the public always favors cutting taxes. Research shows there is substantial evidence that funding to parks and recreation should not be cut during periods of forced leisure.

Park and recreation professionals should take heart that the public knows their agencies provide an outstanding return on investment for quality-of-life gains within a community. A goal for each agency in these tough economic times is not to cut funding, but to evaluate major decisions a bit more closely than in past years and understand the value of research to gain an understanding of the public's will.

With that said, now is the time for strong leadership from park and recreation professionals to encourage elected officials to act in favor of parks and leisure services. The comfort of making decisions will stem from the political cover research provides.

The ability to grow leisure services offerings within an affordable fee structure has led many agencies to find untapped markets. Capital construction costs have been at near record lows for the past 18 months with projects delivered under budget and ahead of schedule.

All of this is made possible by the valor to act. Now more than ever it is time to build upon our industry strength, to do what we do best: deliver quality of life. The public has tough questions, and research can provide a solution for getting the right answers.


David N. Emanuelson is an assistant professor of recreation administration at George Williams College of Aurora University. He served as executive director of the DeKalb Park District, leading it to a Gold Medal Award in 2003. Tod J. Stanton holds a master's degree in recreation administration from George Williams College of Aurora University. He served as a planner for the Naperville Park District and now owns his own professional landscape architecture company.