Data Reveals Elevated Need for Parks and Recreation

June 25, 2020, Department, by Kevin Roth

2020 July Research Data Reveals Elevated Need 410

For an enhanced digital experience, read this story in the ezine.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has put a spotlight on the essential nature of parks and recreation. Throughout our nation, parks, trails and other open space facilities were often the remaining available recreation opportunity as the health crisis took hold. As a result, most communities saw a surge in usage at their parks. And, it is little wonder as to why: 5 in 6 U.S. adults in May’s NRPA Park Pulse poll said that exercising at their local park is essential to maintaining their mental and physical health.

Many park users over the past few months have included these amenities as part of their day-to-day life. In fact, 86 percent of people surveyed for the 2019 Engagement with Parks Report noted that they visit their local parks and recreation facilities. But other users are new park visitors, and after this introduction (or even reintroduction) to their local parks, trails and open space, many have started a new healthy habit that will continue long after the pandemic ends.

Every person deserves access to high-quality, well-maintained parks and recreation options. Yet, this health crisis has identified those busy park areas where we have not achieved this vital goal. But how does one identify the right amount of park and recreation amenities? One way is to use data to make the case for greater park and recreation resources. More specifically, NRPA Park Metrics provides a guide to reach this goal.

NRPA Park Metrics is the most comprehensive source of data standards and insights for park and recreation agencies. Park and recreation professionals and advocates use this benchmark data to gain more funding support, improve operations and better serve their communities.

If you have not used Park Metrics recently, the first place to start is the 2020 NRPA Agency Performance Review. This report, published in May and based on the data from 1,053 agencies across the United States, highlights 24 of the most critical park and recreation metrics collected from the NRPA Park Metrics database. It finds that the “typical” park and recreation agency:

  • Has 9.9 acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents
  • Has 8.1 full-time equivalents (FTEs) on staff for every 10,000 residents
  • Has annual operating expenses of $81.19 on a per capita basis
  • Recovers 25.9 percent of its operating expenditures from non-tax revenues

But no two park and recreation agencies are the same. So, the medians presented above are not the guidelines that agencies should necessarily follow. Instead, park and recreation professionals should seek benchmarks that represent their specific situation.

Park Metrics’ interactive reporting tools allow you to build a customized benchmark report based on a peer group you define. Simply go into NRPA Park Metrics to filter the data by agency type, size and geographic region. You can enhance this experience even further by entering your agency’s data into NRPA Park Metrics, after which you can generate reports that compare your agency’s data with the critical metrics of peer agencies throughout the United States.

Has your agency updated its Park Metrics profile recently? If not, the typical park and recreation professional can enter their agency’s Park Metrics data in fewer than 30 minutes.

NRPA Park Metrics and the 2020 Agency Performance Review provide park and recreation professionals and advocates the data tools they need to ensure their residents have the amenities and services they deserve. Contact Melissa May for assistance in entering your agency’s data or taking full advantage of the reporting tools.

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