NRPA Parks Snapshot provides the latest data on how park and recreation leaders from across the country are confronting the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. I hope you find this information helpful as you make decisions at your agency during this uncertain time and as you continue following 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 March 16 - 19 survey are:
What’s Open/What’s Closed
As of mid-March, park and recreation professionals and their agencies continue to make the vast majority of their amenities available to the public. This includes nearly all agencies reporting that all their trails (98 percent of agencies) and parks (local parks: 98 percent; regional parks: 96 percent) are open.
Other amenities reported fully open at agencies include:
- Dog parks (98 percent)
- Golf courses (98 percent)
- Playgrounds (97 percent)
- Tennis courts (and other racket sports) (97 percent)
- Outdoor sports fields (93 percent)
- Campgrounds (89 percent)
- Basketball courts (84 percent)
- Temporary restroom facilities (e.g., porta-johns) (78 percent)
- Indoor aquatic centers (77 percent)
- Permanent restrooms at outdoor amenities (e.g., parks, trails) (69 percent)
- Recreation centers (69 percent)
- Indoor gyms (66 percent)
While most amenities and facilities have fully reopened, the following have remained completely closed at many agencies:
- Drinking fountains (51 percent)
- Senior centers (48 percent)
Many more summer offerings and events will be available to communities across the country in 2021. While the majority of agencies are offering their summer events and amenities, there is a noticeable split between those being offered in full and those truncated offerings. At a third of agencies, large events — such as 4th of July fireworks and summer festivals — remain on hold pending additional guidance. The following events, amenities and programs are being offered in full or in part this summer:
- Beaches (96 percent)
- Outdoor sports leagues (94 percent)
- Farmers markets (92 percent)
- Outdoor pools (90 percent)
- Sports tournaments (75 percent)
- Indoor sports leagues (72 percent)
- 5K races and other running/walking events (70 percent)
- Summer festivals and events (57 percent)
- Fourth of July fireworks (51 percent)
Summer camps and summer childcare programs provide a vital service to parents and children alike. Four in five park and recreation agencies that typically offer summer camps/childcare programs plan to deliver in-person services this year. Seventy-seven percent of agencies planning for in-person summer camps/summer childcare programs anticipate offering these programs on-time, while only 4 percent will open later than normal this season. An additional 15 percent are awaiting further guidance regarding these programs.
In-person summer camps/summer childcare programs will be taking several measures to promote the health and safety of participants and staff, including:
- Enhanced cleaning and hygiene schedules (e.g., repeated hand washing, cleaning of restrooms, countertops and door handles) (92 percent)
- Increased outdoor activities to promote greater physical distancing (82 percent)
- Reducing the capacity of camps (78 percent)
- Conducting health screenings of summer camp/childcare staff every day (78 percent)
- Mandating the use of masks (78 percent)
- Conducting health screenings of children everyday (75 percent)
- Ensuring drop-off and pick-up occurs outside the facility (73 percent)
- Restricting sharing of equipment (e.g., toys, baseball gloves, art supplies, food) (65 percent)
- Ensuring the same camp staff and children remain in the same classroom/area throughout the duration of the camp (59 percent)
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021
The recently passed economic stimulus bill (the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021) includes $350 billion to help state, local and tribal governments address budget shortfalls. Less than half of all park and recreation agencies anticipate benefiting directly from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
The benefits for those receiving funding include:
- Additional funding to support increased pandemic-related expenditures (e.g., personal protective equipment, ventilation needs) (22 percent)
- An increase in operating budget to partially/completely restore prior budget cuts (22 percent)
- An increase in capital budget to partially/completely restore prior budget cuts (17 percent)
- Additional funding to support an acceleration of capital projects (8 percent)
- Additional funding to support an expansion of offerings (3 percent)
Only two in five park and recreation agency leaders or other representatives of the agency have had conversations with local and state officials to make the case for strategic deployment of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funds to parks and recreation.
In last month’s Parks Snapshot survey, we asked about vaccination eligibility of park and recreation staff and found that 56 percent of park and recreation agencies were currently not eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations per prioritization policies in their locality. This month we see a big shift in that prioritization. Currently, at 75 percent of agencies, all or some agency staff are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
Park and recreation professionals continue to play a vital role in the community when it comes to testing and vaccination distribution, with 82 percent of park and recreation agencies across the country supporting these efforts. Along with providing staff at many testing/vaccination sites, park and recreation support includes:
- Providing agency staff with information on the availability and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine (58 percent)
- Advocating for staff eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations (e.g., for frontline staff) (54 percent)
- Offering agency facilities to serve as COVID-19 vaccination clinics (39 percent)
- Leveraging agency communication channels to educate the public on the availability and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine (32 percent)
- Offering agency facilities to serve as COVID-19 testing sites (31 percent)
- Addressing transportation challenges to/from vaccination clinics (8 percent)
- Providing childcare services for essential personnel and the general public while receiving the vaccine (3 percent)
In addition, here are highlights of the survey results from specific segments:
Small metropolitan areas and rural locales
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 about 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.