Feature Article - June 2012
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Parks & Recreation

A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation

At the same time, even more parks respondents are seeing the number of people using their facilities increase, putting additional pressure on budgets. More than half (55.4 percent) said that usage of their facilities increased from 2010 to 2011, and similar numbers expect further increases in 2012 (55.1 percent) and 2013 (54.7 percent). While nearly one in 10 (9.9 percent) reported a decrease in usage in 2011, that number falls to 5 percent for 2012 and 2.9 percent for 2013. (See Figure 42.)

More parks respondents reported in 2012 that they had taken measures to reduce their costs than in 2011. In 2011, 90.8 percent of parks respondents had acted to reduce operating costs. This year, that number increased to 93.2 percent.

The most common actions taken included improving energy efficiency (61.3 percent of parks respondents had taken this measure), increasing fees (52.5 percent), reducing staff (52.1 percent), putting construction and renovation plans on hold (44.8 percent), and cutting programs or services (38.3 percent).

More parks respondents this year had made efforts to improve energy efficiency than in 2011. While 58.3 percent in 2011 reported energy efficiency improvement efforts, this year that number rises to 61.3 percent. Other actions that were more common in 2012 than in 2011 include putting construction and renovation plans on hold (44.8 percent compared with 37.5 percent); cutting programs and services (38.3 percent vs. 28.3 percent); reducing hours of operation (32.8 percent vs. 26.6 percent); and shortening the season of operation (17.5 percent vs. 12.1 percent). This year also saw an increase in the number of parks respondents who indicated that they had closed facilities in order to reduce operating costs. While just 8.5 percent in 2011 had taken such action, in 2012 that number rose to 12.7 percent.

Although reducing staff was one of the three most common actions undertaken in the past year to reduce operating expenditures, a majority of parks respondents (90.6 percent) to the 2012 survey said that they planned to either maintain existing staffing levels or add more staff in 2012. Just 9.4 percent said they had plans to reduce staff this year. This is down from 2011, when 11.7 percent of parks respondents planned to reduce staff, and is also down from 2010, when 9.8 percent of parks respondents planned to reduce staff.

More than one in 10 (11.5 percent) of parks respondents said they had plans to add staff in 2012. This is up from 9.7 percent who planned to increase staff in 2011. Parks respondents were planning to add an average of 26.2 workers in 2012. These planned staff increases were dominated by volunteers and seasonal staff members. Parks respondents were planning to add an average of 10.5 volunteers and 7.8 seasonal employees. They were planning to add fewer part-time employees (five, on average) or full-time employees (2.8, on average).