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

Got Play?

Kids of all ages can benefit from a little activity, and our parks respondents are providing an outlet—in the form of playgrounds:

  • An impressive 81.4 percent currently include playgrounds in their facilities
  • Playgrounds are one of the most commonly planned additions: 15 percent plan to add playgrounds in the next three years.

Staffing Up

Park respondents were more likely to require members of their staff to earn certifications than many other respondents. The top three certifications required by parks and recreation respondents do not differ much from the results for the entire survey population: CPR/AED/First Aid certification is required by 87.5 percent (compared to 84.3 percent of all respondents); background checks are required by 84 percent (versus 77 percent of all respondents); and lifeguard certifications are required by 65.9 percent (compared to 57.6 percent of all respondents). Parks respondents were also more likely than the general respondents to require aquatic management and pool operations certification. Nearly four in 10 (39.6 percent) of parks respondents indicated that they require this type of certification, versus 34.4 percent. The big difference among respondents in this category was that they were far more likely than others to require pesticide application certification: 40.9 percent of parks respondents require it, compared to less than a quarter (24.5 percent) of all respondents.

When looking for solutions to their staffing problems—especially as budgetary shortfalls force them to lay off staff or do without seasonal or contract workers—many parks consider asking for some help from volunteers. In one shining example of volunteerism, the mayor of Toledo, Ohio, recently was caught by several news organizations out mowing the grass at the city's parks. But while this was a high-profile example of a city leader putting in a little extra effort, volunteers have long served a vital function in national, state, county and city parks.

Boosting volunteerism is one way to improve your reach into the community, though managing volunteers may come with its own challenges.

As baby boomers retire in increasing numbers, they may represent a new resource to tap into for volunteers. And new research presented in May at the American Geriatrics Society may offer one way to market or promote volunteerism in this group, as well as older retirees: Volunteerism can extend your life expectancy.

The study, conducted by Dr. Sei J. Lee and colleagues from the VA Medical Center and University of California, San Francisco, examined 6,360 retirees over the age of 65. What it found was that even after adjusting for numerous factors, such as socioeconomic status, chronic illnesses and functional limitations, volunteering was strongly correlated with lower death rates. The study's authors estimate that volunteering may help by expanding retirees' social networks and improving their self-worth.