Feature Article - June 2007
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Building Active, Involved Communities

Creative Programming

The programs most commonly offered by parks and recreation departments surveyed included holiday events and other special events, programming for youth sports teams, arts and crafts, day camps and summer camps and educational programs. More than half of the respondents in this field also provided programming for adult sports teams, active older adults, swimming, sport training such as golf or tennis instruction, sports tournaments and races, teens, fitness programs and mind/body balance programs such as yoga and tai chi. This frequency of fitness programs in parks and recreation facilities occurs despite the fact that less than 30 percent of them currently include a fitness center. Many more, though, have community or multipurpose centers, which make an ideal venue for aerobics classes and other options to help improve community fitness.

These numbers are likely to see changes over the next several years, as parks and recreation departments plan to add new options. Creating new and innovative programming options was listed as one of the top five issues parks and recreation facility managers will be concerned about in the next three years. One New York-based respondent said, "Our participation rates have dropped considerably over the years because of the drastic change in society. So we have to find new, safe ways to get and keep people involved."

The most common choices for new programs at parks and recreation facilities included environmental education programs, fitness programs and programs aimed at teenagers. More than 10 percent of parks and recreation department respondents said they are planning to add such programming over the next three years.

Parks and recreation departments also were more likely than the general group of survey respondents to be planning to add performing arts programs, such as dance, music or theater, adult sports teams, sports tournaments and races, personal training, youth sports teams, sport training and swimming programs. They were less likely to be planning to add daycare preschool programs, therapeutic programs or nutrition and diet counseling.

The top 10 programs parks and recreation departments are planning to add within the next three years include:

1.   Environmental education
2.   Fitness programs
3.   Teen programming
4.   Mind/body balance programs
5.   Performing arts
6.   Educational programs
7.   Active older adults
8.   Holiday and other special events
9.   Day camps and summer camps
10. Trips