Feature Article - June 2012
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Parks & Recreation

A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation


When asked about the primary audience served by their main facility, more than half (56.5 percent) of parks respondents reported that they serve all ages. Of the remaining 43.5 percent, the most likely primary audience was children ages 4 to 12, who were the primary audience for 23.6 percent of parks respondents. Adults ages 19 to 64 were the primary audience for 12.5 percent, teens age 13 to 18 were the primary audience for 5.1 percent, and seniors age 65 and older were the primary audience for 2.1 percent. Infants and toddlers 4 years old and younger were a primary audience for just 0.3 percent, and no parks respondents said that college students were the primary audience for their main facilities.

Respondents from parks always tend to be among those most likely to partner with other organizations. They often take advantage of such partnerships to extend the space and programming they can offer, as well as to uncover additional sources of funding and patrons for their programs. Only 5.4 percent of parks respondents said they don't partner with any other organizations.

By far, their most common partners were local schools, local government and nonprofit organizations. Nearly three-quarters (73.7 percent) of parks respondents said they partnered with local schools. Two-thirds (66.3 percent) partnered with local government, and 57.1 percent partnered with nonprofit organizations. Corporate and local businesses were also a relatively common partner, with 42 percent of parks respondents naming them as partners. Parks were least likely to partner with private health clubs or the military. (See Figure 40.)

Revenues, Budgets, Staffing and More

Parks respondents report higher average operating budgets than respondents from all facility types. That said, the difference grows smaller over time. While parks respondents in 2010 reported average operating budgets 13.1 percent higher than respondents across the board, that difference falls to 9.5 percent in 2011. Parks respondents had an average operating budget of $1.7 million in fiscal 2011, compared with $1,552,000 for all respondents. The difference falls to 8.4 percent in 2012 and 8 percent in 2013, when parks respondents project an average operating budget of $1,762,000, compared with $1,631,000 for all respondents.

While a quarter (25.8 percent) of parks respondents reported in 2011 that their revenues had fallen from 2009 to 2010, fewer reported falling revenues from 2010 to 2011, and that number drops off significantly over the next two years. While more than one-fifth (21.8 percent) of parks respondents saw their revenues fall from 2010 to 2011, only 13.9 percent expect further decreases in 2012, and just 9.6 percent expect decreases in 2013. (See Figure 41.) A majority expect their revenues to either remain the same or increase in that time period.