Feature Article - June 2015
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Parks & Recreation

A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation

The most commonly planned additions for parks respondents include:

  1. Splash play areas (planned by 23.4 percent of parks respondents who will be adding features)
  2. Playgrounds (22.4 percent)
  3. Dog parks (22 percent)
  4. Fitness trails and outdoor fitness equipment (21.5 percent)
  5. Hiking and walking trails (20.3 percent)
  6. Bike trails (20.1 percent)
  7. Park restroom structures (19.5 percent)
  8. Park structures such as shelters and gazebos (17.7 percent)
  9. Synthetic turf sports fields (16.1 percent)
  10. Wi-Fi services (14.4 percent)

New features measured this year that appear in the top 10 for parks include fitness trails and outdoor fitness equipment, hiking and walking trails, bike trails, park restroom structures and Wi-Fi services. Features that saw an increase in the percentage of parks respondents with plans to add them in 2015 vs. 2014 include: synthetic turf sports fields (up 1.2 percent); and playgrounds (up 0.2 percent).


Parks respondents were more likely than non-parks respondents to report that they offered programming at their facilities. While 96.8 percent of parks respondents provide programs, 93 percent of non-parks respondents do so.

The most common programs found in parks and recreation respondents' lineup include: holiday events and other special events (79.6 percent); youth sports teams (68.9 percent); day camps and summer camps (64.2 percent); educational programs (63.8 percent); adult sports teams (63.4 percent); arts and crafts (61.6 percent); programs for active older adults (56.2 percent); fitness programs (55 percent); sports tournaments and races (55 percent); and sport training such as golf or tennis instruction (53.8 percent).

The list of top 10 programs is virtually unchanged from 2014, though some programs have moved up or down a position. The only program in the top 10 this year that did not appear in 2014 is sport training, which replaces festivals and concerts on the list.

Parks respondents were much more likely than non-parks respondents to report that they had plans to add programs at their facilities over the next three years. Some 38.3 percent of parks respondents reported that they had such plans, compared with 28.4 percent of non-parks respondents. This also represents an increase from 2014, when 35.7 percent of parks respondents had plans to add programs.

The most commonly planned programs, along with their changing positions from 2014, include:

  1. Environmental education programs (up from No. 7)
  2. Mind-body/balance programs such as yoga and tai chi (up from No. 6)
  3. Fitness programs (down from No. 2)
  4. Educational programs (up from No. 8)
  5. Programs for active older adults (down from No. 1)
  6. Teen programming (down from No. 3)
  7. Holidays and special events (down from No. 5)
  8. Day camps and summer camps (did not appear in 2014)
  9. Adult sports teams (down from No. 4)
  10. Water sports such as canoeing and kayaking (did not appear in 2014)