Feature Article - June 2017
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Parks & Recreation

A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation

Parks respondents were far more likely to be planning construction than non-parks respondents. While 75.9 percent of parks respondents in 2017 have plans for construction over the next few years, only 63.1 percent of non-parks respondents had such plans.

Parks respondents reported a 22 percent increase to their planned construction budgets from 2016 to 2017, from $3,842,000 to $4,689,000. This falls right in line with the increase for all respondents of 22.2 percent. In 2017, parks respondents are planning to spend 9.1 percent more, on average, than the average for all respondents.

There was no change to the features most commonly found among park respondents' facilities from 2016 to 2017. The 10 most common features include: playgrounds, park shelters such as gazebos and picnic shelters, park restroom structures, open spaces such as gardens and natural areas, walking and hiking trails, bleachers and seating, outdoor courts for sports like basketball and tennis, natural turf sports fields, classrooms and meeting rooms, and concessions.

Parks respondents were far more likely than non-parks respondents to report that they plan to add more features to their facilities over the next three years. More than half (51.8 percent) of parks respondents said they will be adding features, whereas 34.3 percent of non-parks respondents have such plans.

The most commonly planned additions for parks respondents include:

  1. Splash play areas (planned by 29.2 percent of parks respondents who will be adding features)
  2. Fitness trails and outdoor fitness equipment (21.1 percent)
  3. Park shelters (21.1 percent)
  4. Playgrounds (19.5 percent)
  5. Park restroom structures (18.1 percent)
  6. Walking and hiking trails (17.6 percent)
  7. Dog parks (17 percent)
  8. Wi-Fi services (16.5 percent)
  9. Fitness centers (14.1 percent)
  10. Disc golf courses (13.8 percent)

Features that were planned by more respondents in 2017 than in 2016 include: fitness trails and outdoor fitness equipment (up from 20.8 percent); park shelters (up from 19.5 percent); walking and hiking trails (up from 16.8 percent); park restroom structures (up from 15.3 percent); and Wi-Fi services (12.8 percent). Fitness centers and disc golf courses did not appear in the top 10 planned features in 2016. They replace bike trails and synthetic turf sports fields.


Parks respondents were slightly more likely than non-parks respondents to report that they provide programs at their facilities. While 95.7 percent of non-parks respondents provide programs, 98.9 percent of parks respondents do so.

The most common programs found in parks and recreation respondents' lineup include: holidays and other special events (82.1 percent); youth sports teams (69.6 percent); day camps and summer camps (66.9 percent); educational programs (64.4 percent); arts and crafts (63.9 percent); adult sports teams (60.7 percent); programs for active older adults (59.5 percent); fitness programs (57.8 percent); festivals and concerts (55.3 percent); and mind-body balance programs like yoga or tai chi (53.9 percent).

There were increases in the number of parks respondents providing: holidays and other special events, youth sports teams, day camps and summer camps, educational programs, arts and crafts, active older adult programs, fitness programs, and mind-body balance programs. Festivals and concerts did not appear in the top 10 current programs for parks respondents in 2016. This type of programming replaced swimming programs.

Parks respondents were much more likely than non-parks respondents to report that they are planning to add more programming options at their facilities over the next three years. Some 38.4 percent of parks respondents said they had such plans, compared with 28 percent of non-parks respondents.

The most commonly planned program additions in 2017 include:

  1. Environmental education programs (up from No. 3)
  2. Teen programming (down from No. 1)
  3. Fitness programs (up from No. 4)
  4. Mind-body balance programs such as yoga and tai chi (up from No. 7)
  5. Educational programs (down from No. 2)
  6. Programs for active older adults (no change)
  7. Arts and crafts (down from No. 5)
  8. Day camps and summer camps (did not appear in 2016)
  9. Holidays and other special events (down from No. 8)
  10. Festivals and concerts (did not appear in 2016)