Feature Article - June 2020
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Trends in Parks & Recreation

A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation


Park respondents have reported gradually increasing operating expenditures. From 2018 to 2019, park respondents' average operating expenditures increased by 13.8%, from $2,030,000 to $2,310,000. They expected to see a further increase of 1.3% in 2020, to an average of $2,340,000, and an increase of 4.7% in 2021, with average operating expenses reaching $2,450,000. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will become clearer when the 2021 Industry Report Survey is taken.

On average, park respondents report that they recover 43.8% of their operating costs via revenues, up slightly from 42.3% in 2019. This number has fluctuated slightly over time, reaching a high of 45.1% in 2016. More than one-third (35.5%) of park respondents said that revenues cover 30% or less of their operating costs. Another 19% said they recover 31 to 50% of their costs, some 15.2% earn back 51 to 70% of their operating costs, and 19.3% said they earn back at least 71% of their operating costs via revenues.

Respondents from parks were slightly less likely than non-park respondents to report that they had taken action to reduce their operating expenses. Some 81.8% of non-park respondents said they had done so, compared with 80.6% of park respondents. The most common actions park respondents had taken to reduce their expenses include: improving energy efficiency (51.6%, up from 46.6%); increasing fees (49.1%); putting construction or renovation plans on hold (28.5%); reducing staff (25.7%); and reducing hours of operation (18.1%).

Park Facilities

Park respondents were much more likely than non-park respondents to report that the number of people using their facilities had increased from 2018 to 2019. Some 58.7% of park respondents said usage increased in 2019, compared with 46.6% of non-park respondents. This is up slightly from 2018, when 57.7% of park respondents saw usage increase. Another 5.3% of park respondents said the use of their facilities had decreased in 2019, while 36% said there was no change in the number of people using their facilities in 2019. (See Figure 44.)

The number of park respondents who were expecting to see more users over 2020 and 2021 held fairly steady, with 57.3% expecting an increase in 2020 and 59.3% expecting an increase in 2021. Very few park respondents anticipate declining usage at their facilities—just 1.5% in 2020 and 1.1% in 2021.