Color, But No Diversity

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by Samantha Bartram | Posted on February 4, 2014

As we put our February issue to bed, those of us at Parks & Recreation Magazine found ourselves somewhat conflicted as we pondered our very colorful cover, meant to illustrate the excitement of adult sports trends. Our observant graphic designer Matt Brubaker pointed out, “even with all that color there is a lack of diversity. How ironic…” Indeed.

His comment recalled earlier contemplations about adult sports trends concerning race, class division and resource management, leading us to again wonder: Are the gaps between the upper, middle and lower classes growing too rapidly to allow equitable attention to be given to recreation opportunities for all? Are we giving too much weight to recreation opportunities that bring in revenue, versus those that serve whole communities, regardless of their ability to pay? Precisely how should we examine accessibility in terms of socioeconomic concerns?

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According to Outdoor Industry Association’s 2013 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, participation in outdoor activities is lowest among African Americans, Hispanics and Asians, and highest among whites. Seventy percent of outdoor recreation participants surveyed identified as white. Interestingly, only 11 percent of African Americans surveyed cited cost as a prohibitive factor in participating in outdoor recreational activities. But, some 40 percent of outdoor recreation participants hail from households with incomes of $75,000 or more. 

As professionals and planners in our field dig into 2014, considerations of how to get our communities more involved in available recreational opportunities will continue to be a top priority. During the past several years we’ve seen municipal budgets for parks and recreation departments slashed, and few funding alternatives offered. Many facilities have been forced to increase fees, while at the same time creating clever marketing campaigns to recruit more participants. 

Up-and-coming recreation opportunities like mini soccer, Ultimate Frisbee, kickball and dodgeball — all adult sports trends identified by our February feature writer Carrie Madren — already have the potential for increased inclusivity, as they require little equipment and can be played on almost any field. That’s something for our members to think about. Here at Parks & Recreation Magazine, we, too, will make a concerted effort to contemplate inclusivity in the articles we write, the inquiries we make and the conclusions we draw about where our industry is going, and how we can help advance the conversation. Please take a moment to share your thoughts with us in the comment section below — we’d love to hear about how your park or recreation facility is working to increase diversity in participation and mitigate the impacts of these tough economic times. 


Samantha Bartram  is the associate editor of NRPA’s Parks & Recreation Magazine.


What an interesting and important topic. I can't help but think this challenge has more to do with cultural differences than ability to pay fees to participate in recreation programs. In my neighborhood parks outside Washington, D.C., the wide diversity of music, picnic smells, and pickup games representing so many cultures is part of the fun of a weekend visit. I wonder if those charged with planning and developing recreational activities were representative of the varied groups they serve, would there be more diversity of activities offered and thus more diversity of participants? by Jessica Culverhouse on 02/05/2014


First off you must know the times that people are available to participate in recreation programs. Those times are week days 1;00 to 9:30 PM and most of the day on Saturday and Sundays. I spent many years as a full time Recreation Director and worked those hours or had qualified Recreation Leaders on duty. All kinds of activities were offered-we had good participation. When someone fresh out of College was hired they started at the Park level and worked their way up. True Recreation personnel are fading away. Those that are left spend most of their time behind a computer. Good parks are still provided, but activities are conducted by outside organizations. We still have a few part time "people" on some parks but the "Recreation Proffesional" full time is mostly a thing of the past. by Edwin Delaney on 02/12/2014


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