Making the Case for Parks and Recreation

February 17, 2022, Department, by Kevin Roth

03 22 Research Making the Case for Parks and Recreation 410

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You know your work is critical for a healthy, prosperous community, but it is likely that not everyone who has control over your agency’s destiny does. Hence, it is vital to consistently tell the park and recreation story with easy-to-understand and compelling facts and data.

NRPA has developed five statements that highlight how Parks and Recreation Is Essential. Each statement is backed with multiple supporting proof points that paint the picture of how parks and recreation positively impacts the lives of millions of people every day. Each of these proof points is backed with data and insights culled from research developed by NRPA, other like-minded organizations and the academic community. Here are the five statements and their respective proof points:

Parks and recreation promotes health and wellness.

  • People who live near parks are both physically and mentally healthier than those who do not.
  • Parks and recreation encourages physical activities by providing space for popular sports, hiking trails, swimming pools and many other activities designed to promote active lifestyles.
  • Parks and recreation is a leading provider of healthy meals, nutrition services and education.
  • Access to parks and other public open spaces promotes greater mental well-being.

Park and recreation programming and education activities are critical to childhood development.

  • Parks and recreation is a leading provider of childcare and out-of-school time programming.
  • Parks and recreation is a leader in youth sports, providing opportunities for children of all skills and abilities to play and introducing kids to a wide variety of sports activities.
  • Parks and recreation teaches kids about environmental responsibility, provides better cognitive and emotional stimulation, and promotes creativity and imagination.
  • Children who spend a significant amount of time in nature also experience better emotional stability and improved mental health.

Parks and recreation drives economic opportunity.

  • Local park and recreation agencies’ expenditures support economic activity and job creation.
  • Employers and employees are more likely to locate near high-quality park and recreation amenities.
  • Parks and recreation boosts home values and property tax bases.
  • Parks and recreation is a leading source of first jobs for youth and young adults.

Parks and recreation is everywhere, uniting people and strengthening communities.

  • There are more than 10,000 park and recreation agencies, providing parks, trails, and other public outdoor and indoor spaces in nearly every city, town and county across the United States.
  • Parks and recreation counters social isolation by connecting people with nature and each other.
  • The U.S. public strongly supports parks and recreation’s mission and funding.
  • U.S. adults want their political leaders to fully fund parks and recreation.

Parks and recreation is essential and adaptable infrastructure that makes our communities resilient in the face of natural disasters and climate change.

  • Local park and recreation agencies collectively manage more than 11 million acres of open space across the United States.
  • Park and recreation agencies are on the forefront of their communities’ emergency response.
  • Climate-ready parks provide proven, cost-effective and sustainable environmental solutions.
  • People with access to parks and green spaces live longer, healthier lives.
  • The U.S. public wants parks and recreation to protect natural resources and mitigate the impact of climate change.

Next month, we will highlight a new report that reviews the literature on the health and wellness benefits of parks and recreation.

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