Feature Article - June 2009
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A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation


ecent economic conditions are leading many parks and recreation agencies across the country to cut their budgets, but at the same time, more and more Americans may be taking advantage of the services offered through these agencies. Whether they're trading in a pricier health club membership for a less costly membership at the park district gym, they're taking advantage of public programs to help them learn to get their financial houses in order or they're swapping that beach vacation to splash around in the local waterpark, many citizens are looking for ways to do their own budget cutting, and parks and recreation offers an alternative.

With budgets shrinking and usage increasing in many cases, park agencies are forced to get more creative. And, in fact, many agencies have been refocusing their efforts for years, attempting to operate more like a business, to bring in revenues with some programs to cover shortfalls in other areas. Those agencies are likely performing the best in the current conditions, as they already know what they need to do to adjust.

Who's Running the Show?

Obviously, the vast majority of those identifying themselves as coming from parks and recreation agencies, 97 percent, identified themselves as working for public entities. Another 2.3 percent indicated they are working for private nonprofit organizations.

In line with the nature of these agencies, respondents from parks and recreation agencies were more likely than others to be overseeing a larger number of facilities. In fact, 30.3 percent indicated that they manage 10 or more facilities, with 12.6 percent managing 20 or more. More than half (51.6 percent) said they manage between two and nine facilities, and less than one-fifth (18 percent) manage just a single facility. (See Figure 36.)