Feature Article - June 2016
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Parks & Recreation

A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation

There was no change to the features most commonly found at park respondents' facilities from 2015 to 2016. The 10 most common features include: playgrounds; park shelters such as gazebos and picnic shelters; park restroom structures; walking and hiking trails; open spaces such as gardens and natural areas; outdoor courts for sports like basketball and tennis; bleachers and seating; natural turf sports fields; concessions; and classrooms and meeting rooms.

Parks respondents are much more likely than non-parks respondents to report that they have plans to add features at their facilities over the next three years. More than half (53.8 percent) of parks respondents said they have plans to add features, whereas 34.8 percent of non-parks respondents have such plans.

The most commonly planned additions for parks respondents include:

  1. Splash play areas (planned by 31.1 percent of parks respondents who will be adding features)
  2. Fitness trails or outdoor fitness equipment (20.8 percent)
  3. Playgrounds (20.4 percent)
  4. Park structures (19.5 percent)
  5. Dog parks (18.3 percent)
  6. Hiking and walking trails (16.8 percent)
  7. Bike trails (15.8 percent)
  8. Park restroom structures (15.3 percent)
  9. Synthetic turf sports fields (13.7 percent)
  10. Wi-Fi services (12.8 percent)

Features that were planned by more respondents in 2016 than in 2015 include: splash play areas (up from 27.6 percent); and park structures (up from 17.7 percent).


Parks respondents were more likely than non-parks respondents to report that they offered programming at their facilities. While 97.6 percent of parks respondents provide programs, 95 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 (80.5 percent); youth sports teams (69.3 percent); day camps and summer camps (66.3 percent); adult sports teams (60.7 percent); educational programs (60.4 percent); arts and crafts (60 percent); active older adult programming (58 percent); fitness programs (55.4 percent); swimming programs (53.2 percent); and mind-body balance programs like yoga (53.1 percent).

There were increases in the number of parks respondents providing holidays and special events, youth sports teams, active older adult programs, and fitness programs. Swimming and mind-body balance did not appear in the top 10 programs for parks respondents in 2015. They replaced sports tournaments and races, and sport-specific training.

Parks respondents were far more likely than non-parks respondents to report that they had plans to add programs at their facilities over the next three years. Some 38.2 percent of parks respondents said they had such plans, compared with 25.8 percent of non-parks respondents.

The most commonly planned programs in 2016 include:

  1. Teen programming (up from No. 6 in 2015)
  2. Educational programs (up from No. 4)
  3. Environmental education programs (down from No. 1)
  4. Fitness programs (down from No. 3)
  5. Arts and crafts (did not appear in top 10 for 2015)
  6. Programs for active older adults (down from No. 5)
  7. Mind-body balance programs such as yoga and tai chi (down from No. 2)
  8. Holidays and other special events (down from No. 7)
  9. Special needs programs (did not appear in 2015)
  10. Performing arts (did not appear in 2015)