Feature Article - June 2011
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Parks & Recreation

A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation

By Emily Tipping


While skateparks were not among the top planned features for all respondents, they were among the most commonly planned additions for park respondents. Some 15.8 percent of park respondents with plans to add features reported that they will be adding skateparks.

Skateboarding was the third favorite youth outdoor activity in 2010, according to a topline report from the Outdoor Foundation. The organization reported that there were 329 million total outings for youth ages 6 to 24, with each skateboarder averaging 61.3 outings. According to Skaters for Public Skateparks, skateboarding is the third most popular recreational activity for kids between 6 and 18 years old—kids who will be skating in streets and parking lots if they have no designated spot to congregate. As the organization states on its site, if your city doesn't have a skatepark, it is a skatepark.

Skateparks provide the ideal location for youth—as well as adult skateboarders—to try out their skills in relative safety. Skateparks come in many shapes and sizes, with terrain ranging from streetscape-like plazas with rails, curbs and stairs to parks that are almost sculptural, with concrete bowls, half-pipes, snake runs and more.

Learn more about building and advocating for skateparks at www.skatepark.org.


Park agencies are a common point of interaction between local government and the citizens it serves, offering programs that are highly utilized by their communities, from preschools and day camps to sports teams and fitness programs for kids and adults alike.

The most common programs found in park respondents' facilities include: holiday events and other special events (80.3 percent of those who offer any programs provide this); youth sports teams (69.9 percent); day camps and summer camps (69.6 percent); educational programs (67.4 percent); arts and crafts (63.6 percent); adult sports teams (62.6 percent); fitness programs (58.9 percent); sport training such as golf instruction or tennis lessons (56.9 percent); programming aimed at active older adults (56.5 percent); and festivals and concerts (55.3 percent).

More than a third (34.2 percent) of parks respondents indicated they have plans to add more programs to their lineup over the next three years. The most popular programs planned for addition include:

  1. Teen programs (no change from last year's survey)
  2. Environmental education (up from No. 3 last year)
  3. Fitness programs (down from No. 2)
  4. Programs for active older adults (up from No. 5)
  5. Mind-body/balance programs like yoga and tai chi (up from No. 6)
  6. Educational programs (down from No. 4)
  7. Holiday events and special events (up from No. 8)
  8. Performing arts (did not appear on last year's list 10 top planned programs)
  9. Special needs programs (did not appear on last year's list of 10 top planned programs)
  10. Adult sports teams (no change from last year)

Programs for active older adults have seen a rapid rise over the past three years, from the No. 10 position on the 2009 survey, to No. 5 in 2010 and No. 4 this year. Environmental education has been one of the top three planned programs for three years running. Falling off of the list from last year were arts and crafts programs, and day camps and summer camps.