NRPA Research Year in Review

December 1, 2016, Department, by Kevin Roth, Ph.D.

2016 December Research Year Review 410

December is a time to reflect on the past year. For NRPA Research, 2016 has been a big year featuring new reports and resources. In turn, park and recreation professionals like you have participated in NRPA Research surveys at levels not seen in the history of our organization.


During the past year, we have focused our research work on two goals:

  • To collect and share data that helps park and recreation agencies make optimal decisions on operations, programming and spending
  • To collect and share data that helps park and recreation professionals make the case for greater (and more stable) funding


With that in mind, we not only publish easy-to-read reports, we take the research findings to the next level with color infographics highlighting the study’s key findings and interactive tools that provide you with data customized to your agency.


Let us take one last look at the resources and tools released by NRPA Research in 2016:


Goodbye PRORAGIS, Hello NRPA Park Metrics
At the beginning of this year, we rolled out a streamlined Agency Performance Survey instrument that supports PRORAGIS, NRPA’s agency performance benchmarking tool. The questionnaire now features 30 questions, with slightly more than 100 data points, that typically take less than half an hour to complete. Even better, it takes agencies that previously completed the Agency Performance Survey less than 10 minutes to enter their 2016 data.


But, the real changes have come in how park and recreation professionals can interact with the data. These resources include:

  • The annual NRPA Field Report, the most comprehensive resource of data and insights for park and recreation agencies in the United States, featuring 21 figures that highlight critical park and recreation metrics
  • Interactive charts featuring detailed crosstabs of the data for every table and chart presented in the NRPA Field Report
  • Custom Agency Performance Reports, which allow you to create a custom report of park and recreation metrics based on agency characteristics of your choosing, including agency size and budget, jurisdiction population and geography. Agencies with up-to-date data in the system have access to a dashboard, allowing direct comparisons of their own performance with those of their peers.


With all of these changes, we felt it was time for a new name for these resources, one that better reflected what they are. So, PROAGIS is now NRPA Park Metrics. If you haven’t already, check out the many data resources now available to you. If you’re a first-time user, enter your agency’s 2016 data so you can take full advantage of everything that NRPA Park Metrics has to offer.


NRPA Facility Market Reports
Ever wonder who lives near your park and recreation facilities? We introduced NRPA Facility Market Reports to help answer this question. These brief reports present key data and insights about the market served by your agency’s facilities. Your agency gains a greater understanding of the residents served by a park, aquatic center, recreation center or any other amenity, with a particular focus on their habits and interests.


Demographics and Forecasts: Learn about the size of the market, age trends, race and ethnicity, income, exercise habits, recreation spending and social media usage of the population served by your facility.


Map: See the size of the area served (or that could be served) by your facility, based on a driving or walking time that you set (e.g., 10-minute walk time or 5-, 10-, 15- or 30-minute drive time).


During the past year, the NRPA Research team has produced hundreds of NRPA Facility Market Reports (FMR) for agencies large and small. Some agencies have requested dozens of FMRs for every recreation center that they manage. NRPA Premier Member agencies get a set allotment of FMRs as part of their membership package. And, if you need extra reports or if you are not currently with a Premier Agency, you can receive FMRs for a nominal charge.

We now are testing a new NRPA Facility Market Report that’s focused on health and wellness, specifically on exercise and recreation habits, doctor visits, usage of prescription drugs and dietary habits. Request one today.


Americans’ Broad-Based Support for Local Recreation and Park Services
In a follow-up to a 1992 NRPA/Penn State University (PSU) study, NRPA Research engaged a group of PSU researchers to learn more about how the general public views their local parks.


What did we learn? Americans cherish their local public park and recreation services, seeing them as valuable features of their communities, towns and cities. In fact, Americans almost unanimously agree that their communities benefit from their local public parks, even if they themselves are not regular park users. This passion for local public parks has gone unabated during the past 25 years even as our nation and the ways we interact and entertain each other have dramatically evolved.


Click here to read the full report and dig deeper into the data with a series of interactive tools. 


Americans’ Engagement with Parks Survey
NRPA Research launched a new annual study that probes Americans’ usage of parks, the key reasons that drive their use and the greatest challenges preventing greater usage. Each year, the survey will explore the importance of public parks in Americans’ lives, including how parks compare to other services and offerings of local governments.


This inaugural survey released this fall found:

  • Americans on average visit their local park and recreation facilities approximately 29 times a year, with 3 in 5 saying their most recent visit was within the past month.
  • Nine in 10 Americans agree that parks and recreation services are important amenities delivered by their local government, comparable to public safety, school and transportation.
  • Seven in 10 Americans say they are more likely to vote for local politicians who make park and recreation funding a priority.
  • Three-quarters of Americans support increased local government spending for park and recreation agencies, with solid support for an almost 30 percent increase in funding for local park and recreation agencies.


NRPA Park Pulse Polls
The two preceding studies find broad support for park and recreation agencies. NRPA Research now has a resource that gives NRPA and member agencies reasons to tout their benefits throughout the year. NRPA Park Pulse is a monthly single-question poll on issues related to parks and recreation.


Some topics are serious — such as, the impact Zika had on people’s plans to enjoy the outdoors last summer or banning the use of tobacco products at public parks. Other topics celebrate what agencies offer to their communities, including favorite outdoor activities or whether watching the Olympics motivates people to become more physically active.


2016 has been a rewarding year in developing new resources and reintroducing previously offered research tools to park and recreation professionals. In the coming year, we look forward to broadening the reach of NRPA Research to give you the resources you need to better serve the public and tell the park and recreation story. Help us succeed by sharing your feedback. Whether it’s to share your thoughts on a previous report or to make a suggestion on future research topics, we are looking forward to hearing from you.

Kevin Roth, Ph.D., is NRPA’s Vice President of Research.