Feature Article - June 2008
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Get 'em Active, Get 'em Outside

A Look at Trends in Parks & Community Recreation Centers

From the smallest neighborhood playground to the largest national park, America's parks and publicly run recreation centers and other facilities are at the forefront of a variety of missions: combating the obesity epidemic among all age groups, fighting "nature deficit disorder"—the trend of kids spending less time outdoors, conserving natural resources, getting more people of all ages involved in activities as diverse as fishing, tennis, environmental education, golf and more. But funding issues loom large in this sector of the recreation, fitness and sports industry, and our respondents indicated that the economic crunch looms large in their concerns.

About the Parks & Recreation Respondents

The largest group of respondents to our survey—41 percent—represented parks and recreation departments and other publicly run recreation centers. These agencies range from small-town parks and urban agencies managing hundreds of facilities large and small to state-run park departments and the national parks.

Respondents from parks and recreation agencies were more likely than other respondents to indicate that they operate many facilities. While 36.6 percent of respondents from all types of organizations indicated that they operate just a single facility, just 12.6 percent of parks and recreation respondents said they manage a single facility. And while less than 20 percent of all respondents indicated that they operate 10 or more facilities, more than a third (36 percent) of parks and recreation respondents said they managed 10 or more facilities. (See Figure 40.)

More respondents from parks and recreation departments indicated that they were located in suburban and urban communities than the average respondent. Nearly half (49.3 percent) of respondents from parks and recreation departments said they were located in suburban communities, compared to just 43.8 percent of all respondents. The next largest group in this category—27.9 percent—represented urban parks and recreation departments, while another 22.8 percent said they were in rural communities.

Respondents working for parks and recreation facilities also indicated that their agencies and organizations were more likely to partner with external organizations than many other respondents. The vast majority—92.7 percent of parks and recreation respondents said they partner with other, external organizations, compared to 85 percent of all respondents. Their number-one partner is local school districts. Nearly three-quarters of parks and recreation respondents said their organization partners with local schools. Other common partners included nonprofit organizations, corporate partners and local businesses and local government. More than 50 percent of parks and recreation respondents indicated partnering with these types of organizations. Less than 10 percent indicated that they had partnered with private health clubs or military organizations, and between 20 percent and one-third indicated that they had partnered with colleges or universities, health care facilities or medical facilities, YMCAs, YWCAs, JCCs, and state or federal government agencies.