Feature Article - June 2019
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Parks & Recreation

A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation


Looking forward, a growing number of parks respondents said they expect their revenues to increase in 2019 and 2020, with 50.2 percent projecting an increase in 2019, and 54 percent expecting an increase in 2020. At the same time, the percentage who expect revenues to decrease drops to 5.2 percent in 2019 and 3.2 percent in 2020.

Parks respondents reported steadily increasing operating expenses from 2017 through 2020. From 2017 to 2018, parks respondents' operating expenditures increased by 0.5 percent, from an average of $2,020,000 to $2,030,000 in 2018. They expect to see a further increase of 1 percent in 2019, to an average of $2,050,000, and an increase of 2 percent from 2019 to 2020, with average operating expenses reaching $2,090,000.

On average, parks respondents report that they recover 42.3 percent of their operating costs via revenue, a number that has fallen slightly since the question was added to the survey in 2016. In 2018, parks respondents said they recovered 43.9 percent of costs, up slightly from 2017 (43.4 percent), but down from 2016, when 45.1 percent of costs were recovered. More than one-third (35.5 percent) said they recover 30 percent or less of their operating costs via revenue. Another 20.4 percent said they recover between 31 percent and 50 percent of their operating costs. Some 15 percent earn back 51 percent to 70 percent of their costs, and 17.4 percent said they earn back at least 71 percent of their operating costs via revenues.

Respondents from parks were slightly more likely than non-parks respondents to report that they had taken action to reduce their operating expenses. Some 81.4 percent of parks respondents said they had done so (up from 80.9 percent in 2018), compared with 79.4 percent of non-parks respondents. The most common actions parks respondents had taken to reduce their expenses include: increasing fees (53.3 percent, up from 51 percent in 2018); improving energy efficiency (46.6 percent); putting construction or renovation plans on hold (29.2 percent); reducing staff (26.1 percent); and cutting programs and services (18.8 percent).

Park Facilities

Parks respondents were much more likely than non-parks respondents to report that the number of people using their facilities had increased from 2017 to 2018. Some 57.7 percent of parks respondents said usage had increased in that time frame, compared with just 43.8 percent of non-parks respondents. This is up slightly from 2017, when 56.4 percent of parks respondents said usage had increased. Another 7.6 percent of parks respondents said usage had decreased from 2017 to 2018, up slightly from 2017, when 6.2 percent reported a decrease. (See Figure 43.)

Looking forward, the percentage of parks respondents who expect to see further growth in the number of people using their facilities rises to 59.5 percent in 2019 and 61.1 percent in 2020. At the same time, the percentage expecting to see a decline in the number of people using their facilities falls to 3.5 percent in 2019 and 2 percent in 2020.