Feature Article - June 2019
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Parks & Recreation

A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation


After increasing steadily for several years, the number of parks respondents who report that they have plans for construction dropped slightly in 2018. In 2015, 72.6 percent of parks respondents said they had plans for construction, and by 2018, that number had grown to 76.6 percent. This year saw a slight decrease, with 76.1 percent of parks respondents indicating that they have plans for construction over the next few years. Nearly one-third (32.2 percent) of parks respondents were planning new construction, while 35.6 percent were planning additions to existing facilities and 59.4 percent were planning renovations. (See Figure 44.)

After reporting a sharp decrease in construction budgets from 2017 to 2018, this year's parks respondents reported a significant increase. From 2017 to 2019, construction budgets for parks respondents increased by 9.4 percent, from an average of $4,689,000 to $5,130,000. This is 1 percent higher than the average for all respondents, $5,080,000.

There was little change to the features most commonly found among parks respondents' facilities from 2018 to 2019. The top 10 features commonly found in their facilities remained the same, though some were more or less prevalent than in 2018. The 10 most common features in park respondents' facilities include: playgrounds; park shelters such as gazebos and picnic shelters; park restroom structures; bleachers and seating; walking and hiking trails; outdoor sports courts for sports like basketball and tennis; open spaces such as gardens and natural areas; natural turf sports fields; classrooms and meeting rooms; and concessions.

While fewer parks respondents in 2019 are planning to add more features at their facilities over the next three years than in 2018, they are far more likely than non-parks respondents to have such plans. More than half (51.4 percent) of parks respondents said they will be adding features at their facilities (down from 56.2 percent in 2018), while 35.2 percent of non-parks respondents have such plans.

The most commonly planned additions for parks respondents include:

  1. Splash play areas (planned by 25.6 percent of parks respondents who will be adding features)
  2. Dog parks (22.4 percent)
  3. Playgrounds (21.6 percent)
  4. Fitness trails and outdoor fitness equipment (21 percent)
  5. Park restroom structures (18.7 percent)
  6. Walking and hiking trails (18.4 percent)
  7. Park shelters (18.1 percent)
  8. Synthetic turf sports fields (16.7 percent)
  9. Bike trails (15.5 percent)
  10. Disc golf courses (12.6 percent)

Features that are planned by more respondents in 2019 than in 2018 include: dog parks (up from 20.8 percent); playgrounds (up from 16.4 percent); fitness trails and outdoor fitness equipment (up from 20.6 percent); park restroom structures (up from 13.9 percent); walking and hiking trails (up from 17.8 percent); park shelters (up from 15.3 percent); and bike trails (up from 13.9 percent).