Feature Article - June 2021
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Trends in Parks & Recreation

A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation


In this section, we take a look at the latest trends among respondents from parks agencies. The largest cohort covered in the survey, these respondents made up 42.7% of the survey population, down from 47.1% in 2020.

Park respondents were most likely to be located in the Midwest or the West. Some 28.9% of park respondents were from the Midwest, while 25.2% were from the West. Just over one-fifth (20.6%) were from the South Atlantic region, and smaller numbers were from the Northeast (15.7%) and the South Central states (9.6%).

Park respondents were most likely to be from suburban communities, with 45.3% indicating they call the suburbs home. Another third (33.3%) were from rural communities, and just over a fifth (21.5%) were from urban areas.

Park respondents were more likely to serve larger populations of people than most other respondents. On average, park respondents said they reach an average population of 127,000 people, down from 142,000 in 2020.

Park respondents were more likely than non-park respondents to report that they reach an audience of 100,000 or more, while they were far less likely to serve an audience of 20,000 or fewer. Some 26.9% of park respondents said they serve a population of at least 100,000 people, compared with just 16.4% of non-park respondents. On the other hand, while 33.6% of park respondents said they reach 20,000 or fewer, 59.7% of non-park respondents reach an audience of 20,000 or fewer.

On average, park respondents said they manage 11.1 facilities, down slightly from 12 in 2020. More than a quarter (25.9%) of park respondents said they manage 10 or more facilities, down from 30.5% in 2020. This compares with just 8.1% of non-park respondents. Conversely, while just 17% of park respondents said they manage only a single facility, nearly half (47.9%) of non-park respondents said they have just one facility to manage. Nearly six out of 10 (58.8%) park respondents said they manage between one and five facilities. (See Figure 43.)

Park respondents were much more likely than non-park respondents to report that they reach either an all-ages audience, or children from 4 to 12 years old. While 53.6% of park respondents said they primarily reach all ages, just 30.8% of non-park respondents said this was their primary audience. And while 27.2% of park respondents said they primarily reach children ages 4 to 12, just 12.6% of non-park respondents do so. Other audiences served by park respondents include: adults 19 and up (12.2% of park respondents said they primarily reach adults); teens (4.1%); seniors 65 and older (2.7%); and infants and toddlers (0.2%).