Feature Article - June 2020
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Trends in Parks & Recreation

A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation


After a slight decrease in 2019, the number of park respondents who reported plans for construction increased again in 2020. While 76.1% of park respondents in 2019 said they were planning construction, in 2020, 80.8% of park respondents said they had such plans. Two-thirds (66%) of park respondents were planning renovations to their existing facilities, while 39.2% were planning additions and 38.7% were planning to build new facilities. (See Figure 45.)

After reporting a decrease in construction budgets from 2017 to 2018, respondents in 2019 saw a significant increase. The year 2020 saw further increases to construction budgets for parks. After a 9.4% increase from 2017 to 2019, respondents in 2020 reported a further 8.6% increase, from an average of $5,130,000 in 2019 to $5,570,000 in 2020. This is 1.1% lower than the average construction cost for all respondents ($5,630,000).

Once again, there was little change to the features most commonly found among park respondents' facilities in 2020. The top 10 features most commonly found among their facilities remained the same, with only slight changes from 2019 to 2020. The 10 most common features in park respondents' facilities include: park shelters such as gazebos and picnic shelters; playgrounds; park restroom structures; walking and hiking trails; open spaces such as gardens and natural areas; outdoor sports courts for sports like basketball and tennis; bleachers and seating; natural turf sports fields; concession areas; and classrooms and meeting rooms.

The number of park respondents who said they had plans to add more features at their facilities over the next three years increased from 51.4% in 2019 to 53.7% in 2020. This compares with just 34.1% of non-park respondents who had plans to add features at their facilities.

The most commonly planned additions for park respondents were:

  1. Splash play areas (planned by 32.1% of park respondents who will be adding features)
  2. Dog parks (26.4%)
  3. Playgrounds (24.2%)
  4. Park shelters (21.5%)
  5. Park restroom structures (20.9%)
  6. Walking and hiking trails (20%)
  7. Outdoor fitness areas and fitness trails (18.5%)
  8. Disc golf courses (14.8%)
  9. Bike trails (14.5%)
  10. Synthetic turf sports fields (13.9%)

Features that were planned by more respondents in 2020 than in 2019 include: splash play areas (up from 25.6%); dog parks (up from 22.4%); playgrounds (up from 21.6%); park shelters (up from 18.1%); park restroom structures (up from 18.7%); walking and hiking trails (up from 18.4%); and disc golf courses (up from 12.6%).