NRPA Parks Snapshot: July 22-24 Survey Results

By Kevin Roth | Posted on July 24, 2020

Parks Snapshot July24 410

The NRPA Parks Snapshot provides the latest data on how park and recreation leaders from across the country are confronting the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. I hope you find this information helpful as you make decisions at your agency during this uncertain time, while continuing to follow the guidance provided by your local and state governments and health officials, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Among the key findings from the July 22-24 survey:


What's Open/What's Closed

Over the past two weeks, we have detected a slight shift of some agencies reclosing a select number of their amenities. However, there remains a long list of amenities that agencies are keeping open to the public. Virtually all agencies have opened all their trails (98 percent) and parks (local parks: 92 percent; regional parks: 88 percent).


Other amenities fully open across the nation include:

  • Golf courses (95 percent)
  • Dog parks (93 percent)
  • Tennis courts (92 percent)
  • Beaches for walking (90 percent)
  • Community gardens (88 percent)
  • Skateparks (83 percent)
  • Beaches for swimming (83 percent)    
  • Temporary restroom facilities (77 percent)
  • Campgrounds (70 percent)
  • Outdoor sports fields (68 percent)
  • Permanent restrooms at outdoor amenities (64 percent)
  • Basketball courts (63 percent)
  • Playgrounds (61 percent)
  • Outdoor pools (50 percent)
  • Indoor aquatic centers (50 percent)

On the flip side, many agencies are keeping closed:

  • Senior centers (80 percent)
  • Drinking fountains (56 percent)
  • Indoor gyms (53 percent)
  • Splash pads (53 percent)
  • Recreation centers (43 percent)

Heat/Severe Weather

One in four park and recreation agencies are providing relief from heat and severe weather to community members even though they have reduced capacity at their indoor facilities. Among the heat and severe weather-related relief services offered are:

  • Reopening of recreation centers and other indoor facilities to serve as cooling shelters
  • Adding outdoor shaded options
  • Increased check-ins with at-risk residents

Plans for Educational Support and the Fall

With continued uncertainty surrounding the status of schools this fall, park and recreation leaders are looking for ways to support students, teachers and families. More than half of all park and recreation agencies are making plans to support students this fall, whether through expanded childcare offerings or by offering resources to support education efforts. These include:

  • Offering expanded childcare services and hours to support virtual education (20 percent)
  • Incorporating supplemental education activities — like physical activity, music, arts, STEM, reading/writing, social skills — into childcare programs (17 percent)
  • Expanding access to free WiFi to support virtual education for students (14 percent)
  • Providing outdoor facility space to schools to serve as classrooms or for activities (14 percent)
  • Providing meals and snacks to food-insecure youth at park and recreation sites (11 percent)

Most agencies remain in a holding pattern with fall programming, although some are moving forward with a reduced set of offerings. Fall programming currently on hold pending additional guidance includes:

  • Contact sports leagues (45 percent)
  • Festivals/concerts (36 percent)
  • 5K races and other running/walking events (35 percent)
  • Non-contact sports leagues (32 percent)

An increasing number of agencies, however, have canceled some of their fall offerings, especially those that involve large groups. Canceled fall activities include:

  • Festivals/concerts (45 percent)
  • 5K races and other running/walking events (36 percent)
  • Contact sports leagues (21 percent)
  • Childcare for children of the general public (17 percent)

Additional Funding Support

Many park and recreation agencies around the country find themselves in a budget squeeze, with declining tax support and revenues in the face of rising expenses due to enhanced safety measures and added services. Three in four park and recreation agencies report receiving additional funding from a variety of sources to support their response to the pandemic and mitigate the impact of budget cuts and revenue shortfalls. The most cited additional funding sources include:

  • COVID-19 related federal funding, such as the CARES Act or FEMA (65 percent)
  • Volunteer hours from community members (20 percent)
  • In-kind donations from businesses or corporations (14 percent)
  • Donations from individuals (13 percent)
  • Cash grants from local foundations, corporations or other philanthropic partners (13 percent)
  • Cash grants from state or national level foundations, corporations or other philanthropic partners (10 percent)


View the Full Results


In addition, here are survey results for specific segments:

The full results of the survey include verbatim comments shared by park and recreation leaders across the nation on their agencies’ experiences in confronting COVID-19. This is an uncertain time with many unanswered questions, and we encourage you to continue the conversation with your colleagues around how your agency is confronting COVID-19 on NRPA Connect.

For more information and to see results from additional surveys, visit NRPA's Parks Snapshot Surveys webpage.

For more information about NRPA’s response to COVID-19, as well as available resources for park and recreation professionals, please see our Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) webpage.

Kevin Roth is Vice President of Research, Evaluation and Technology at NRPA.