Feature Article - June 2021
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Trends in Parks & Recreation

A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation


Like most respondents, parks reported a decrease to their construction budgets from 2020 to 2021. Park respondents in 2021 were planning to spend $5,160,000 on their construction, down 7.4% from $5,570,000 in 2020. That said, the average construction budget for 2021 is still 0.6% higher than the average for 2019 ($5,130,000).

Once again there is little to no change in the features most commonly found among park respondents' facilities in 2020, with the 10 most common features trading some places but not changing, overall. The 10 most common features found among park respondents' facilities include: playgrounds; park shelters such as gazebos and picnic shelters; park restroom structures; walking and hiking trails; open spaces such as gardens and natural areas; outdoor sports courts for sports like basketball or tennis; bleachers and seating; natural turf sports fields; classrooms and meeting rooms; and concession areas.

As with construction plans, the number of park respondents who said they had plans to add more features at their facilities over the next several years was down in 2021, but they were still much more likely than non-park respondents to have such plans. Some 46.8% of park respondents in 2021 said they would be adding features at their facilities, down from 53.7% in 2020. This compares with just 29.8% of non-park respondents who had plans to add features at their facilities.

The most commonly planned additions for park respondents were:

  • Outdoor fitness areas and fitness trails (planned by 26% of park respondents who will be adding features)
  • Splash play areas (24.9%)
  • Walking and hiking trails (21.7%)
  • Dog parks (20.6%)
  • Playgrounds (19.9%)
  • Park shelters (18.4%)
  • Disc golf courses (18.4%)
  • Bike trails (18.4%)
  • Park restroom structures (16.6%)
  • Open spaces and natural areas (13.7%)

Features that were more likely to be in the works in 2021 than in 2020 include: outdoor fitness areas and fitness trails (up from 18.5%); walking and hiking trails (up from 20%); bike trails (up from 14.5%); and open spaces and natural areas (up from 10%). Note that all of these features are among the types of amenities that have become much more popular over the past year as the coronavirus pandemic forced people to seek their fitness and socialization in the great outdoors.