Feature Article - June 2007
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Urban Centers, Suburban Growth and Rural Recreation

Respondents from rural communities were more likely than those in urban and suburban areas to report that their facilities included concession areas, trails and open spaces, and waterfronts or marinas. Outdoor and traditional options are more common in these communities, with outdoor sport courts, playgrounds, sports fields, trails and open spaces and park structures among the top amenities included in these facilities.

Rural facilities were far less likely to include synthetic sports fields. On average, more than 12 percent of all respondents rely on synthetic turf. That number jumps to more than 17 percent for urban facilities, but falls to just over 6 percent of rural facilities. This could be a reflection of the lower number of people using the sports fields in rural communities. Because of this, rural facilities likely have more time than facilities in urban and suburban areas to allow their fields to rest between programmed activities.

Likewise, they were far less likely to include waterparks or splash play areas. Nearly 22 percent of suburban communities provided such features, while just over 9 percent of rural communities had them.

Rural communities were also less likely to include golf courses, skateparks, climbing walls, indoor aquatic facilities, fitness centers, community or multipurpose centers, and many of the amenities associated with indoor facilities like indoor sport courts and locker rooms.

Respondents from rural communities, which seem to rely mainly on traditional park offerings with plenty of outdoor opportunities, were most likely to be planning to add more of the same.

However, fitness centers, climbing walls and other indoor options also appeared on this group of respondents' list of top 10 planned amenities for the next several years:

  • Park structures
  • Trails and open spaces
  • Fitness centers
  • Waterpark and splash play areas
  • Bleachers and seating
  • Playgrounds
  • Climbing walls
  • Natural turf sports fields
  • Indoor sport courts
  • Locker rooms