National Recreation and Park Association Study Shows Americans Are Passionate About Their Parks

(January 19, 2016)

Majority of Americans believe local parks benefit their communities, are worth their tax dollars and more

1.19.16_Blog_Perceptions_InfoASHBURN, VA – Jan. 19, 2016 – Americans have a passionate and unwavering support for local and community parks according to a new study commissioned by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA)and conducted by The Pennsylvania State University. They see local park and recreation services as a valuable part of their communities with 83 percent stating that they personally benefit from local parks and 92 percent stating that their communities benefit from these services. Even a majority of non-users saw a benefit from these services.

Americans’ Broad-Based Support for Local Recreation and Park Services is an update to a study originally conducted in 1992 by The Pennsylvania State University. From 1992 to the present, much has changed — Americans are older, better educated, more diverse and urbanized, and more technologically advanced. What has not changed, however, is how people, regardless of age, income or political affiliation, remain passionate about and supportive of their local park and recreation services. 

“What’s truly amazing about the results of this new study is that despite the ever-increasing demands for our attention in an oversaturated world of data, parks and recreation is still a highly-valued and essential part of our communities,” said Barbara Tulipane, NRPA President and CEO. “Providing places for Americans to get healthy, engage with nature and connect with each other offline is now more important than ever and people recognize that.” 

“During the last quarter century, America changed in ways that might lead one to believe that support for local government park and recreation services would decline. That belief turns out to be false. If anything, Americans’ use of and support for these services actually increased,” said Andrew Mowen, lead study investigator. Working with colleagues Alan Graefe, Austin Barrett and Geoffrey Godbey, the Penn State research team was able to draw numerous comparisons with the earlier 1992 study.

Americans agree that their parks are beneficial and worth investing in. In an environment where public agencies are forced to do more with less money, it is telling that 4 in 5 Americans believe their local parks are well worth the average amount of $70 per person paid in local taxes every year. Even Americans who don’t use these services agree they are worth this investment. 

Americans also agree key areas of focus for parks and recreation should be conservation, health and wellness, and social equity, matching the priorities highlighted in NRPA’s Three Pillars. More than three-quarters of respondents agreed that parks and recreation should prioritize items such as conserving the natural environment, offering facilities and services to improve physical and mental health, and ensuring that facilities and programs are accessible to all members of the community. 

Across demographics, Americans believe local park and recreation agencies provide essential services for our communities. In a time where leisure devices can be carried in pockets, parks are still a priority, and Americans agree that they should be funded as an essential service.

To view the report, infographic and interactive tools, visit

About The National Recreation and Park Association 

The National Recreation and Park Association is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing park, recreation and conservation efforts that enhance quality of life for all people. Through its network of 50,000 recreation and park professionals and citizens, NRPA encourages the promotion of healthy and active lifestyles, conservation initiatives and equitable access to parks and public space. For more information, visit For digital access to NRPA’s flagship publication, Parks & Recreation, visit

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Media Contact:

Roxanne Sutton