Feature Article - June 2022
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Trends in Parks & Recreation

A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation

By Emily Tipping


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 31.6% of the survey respondents, down from 42.7% in 2021.

Park respondents were most likely to be located in the Midwest or West. In fact, one-third (33%) of park respondents were in the Midwest, while 22.7% were located in the Western states. Another 17% were from the Northeast, while 15.9% were from the South Atlantic region, and 10.8% were from the South Central region.

More than half (52.6%) of park respondents said they were located in suburban communities. Another 27.4% were from rural communities, and 20% were from urban areas.

On average, park respondents said they reach a population of 83,270 people, a sharp decrease from 2021's average of 127,000. They were slightly less likely than non-park respondents to report that they reach an audience of 100,000 or more, and they were much less likely to reach an audience of less than 20,000 people. Some 15.3% of park respondents said they reach an audience of 100,000 or more people, compared with 17.7% of non-park respondents. And while 58% of non-park respondents said they reach an audience of less than 20,000, 42.4% of park respondents serve a population of less than 20,000.

On average, park respondents said they manage nine individual facilities, down from 11.1 in 2021. More than a quarter (26%) of park respondents said they manage 10 or more facilities, representing virtually no change from 25.9% in 2021. This compares with just 8.9% of non-park respondents. Conversely, while around one-fifth (19.8%) of park respondents said they manage just a single facility, well over half (56.1%) of non-park respondents said they have just one facility to manage. Nearly a quarter (24.9%) of park respondents manage two or three facilities, while 16.9% manage four to five, and 12.4% manage between six and nine facilities. (See Figure 43.)

Park respondents were most likely to report that their audience was made of up all age groups, or of children ages 4 to 12. Some 50.8% of park respondents said they reach all ages, vs. 29.2% of non-park respondents; and while 29.4% of park respondents said their primary audience is made up of children ages 4 to 12, just 15.9% of non-park respondents reach children as their primary audience. Another 12.4% of park respondents said their audience was primarily made up of adults, while 4.5% primarily reach teens and 2.8% primarily serve seniors.