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Two years into the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, one thing is clear: parks and recreation is essential. Each year, 260 million people across the United States visited a park, trail, recreation center or other park and recreation amenity at least once. This is thanks to the efforts of more than 165,000 full-time park and recreation staff and the hundreds of thousands of part-time and seasonal workers and volunteers across the United States working tirelessly to ensure that every person in every community benefits from the programs and facilities that parks and recreation offers.
These dedicated people at the more than 10,000 local park and recreation agencies support services and facilities that offer rewarding recreation opportunities, deliver vital emergency services and promote better physical and mental health. Quantifying the work of park and recreation professionals and their agencies helps demonstrate the role of parks and recreation in your community to internal colleagues, external consultants, partners, policymakers and key stakeholders.
The 2022 NRPA Agency Performance Review summarizes the key findings from NRPA Park Metrics — the benchmarking resource that assists park and recreation professionals in the effective management and planning of their operating resources and capital facilities. The combination of insights from this report and NRPA Park Metrics, along with information about your community’s specific needs and experiences, will help identify the optimal mix of facilities and programming your agency should deliver.
Throughout the report, data are presented on the “typical” agency. Understanding that no agency is “typical,” additional cross-tabulations by jurisdiction population or population density also are presented. More comprehensive cross-tabulations are available as interactive tables. The 2022 NRPA Agency Performance Review presents data from more than 1,000 unique park and recreation agencies across the United States, as reported between 2019 and 2021.
Key findings from the 2022 NRPA Agency Performance Review include:
- Residents per Park – There is typically one park for every 2,323 residents.
- Acres of Parkland per 1,000 Residents – The typical park and recreation agency has 10.4 acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents in the jurisdiction.
- Outdoor Park and Recreation Facilities: Prevalence and Population per Facility – An overwhelming majority of park and recreation agencies have playgrounds (95 percent) and basketball courts (86 percent) in their portfolio of assets.
- Miles of Trails – The typical park and recreation agency manages or maintains 14 miles of trails for walking, hiking, running and/or biking.
- Indoor Park and Recreation Facilities: Prevalence and Population per Facility – A majority of agencies offer community centers and recreation centers; two in five agencies offer senior centers.
- Programming Offered by Park and Recreation Agencies – Key programming activities include themed special events, social recreation events, team sports, fitness enhancement classes, and health and wellness education.
- Targeted Programs for Children, Older Adults and People With Disabilities – Eighty-three percent of agencies offer summer camp for their communities’ younger residents.
Responsibilities of Park and Recreation Agencies
- Key Responsibilities of Park and Recreation Agencies – Top roles include operating and maintaining parks, trails and indoor facilities; providing recreation programming and services; and conducting jurisdiction-wide special events.
- Other Responsibilities of Park and Recreation Agencies – Operating, maintaining or contracting special purpose parks, pools and racquet sports areas lead the list of other agency responsibilities.
- Park and Recreation Agency Staffing – The typical park and recreation agency has a payroll of 49.4 full-time equivalent staff (FTEs).
- Park and Recreation FTEs per 10,000 Residents – The typical park and recreation agency has 8.9 FTEs on staff for each 10,000 residents in the jurisdiction served by the agency.
- Responsibilities of Park and Recreation Workers – Operations and maintenance, programming, and administration are the primary responsibilities of park and recreation workers.
- Annual Operating Expenditures – The typical park and recreation agency has annual operating expenditures of $5,079,256.
- Operating Expenditures per Capita – The typical park and recreation agency has annual operating expenses of $93.01 on a per capita basis.
- Operating Expenditures per Acre of Park and Non-Park Sites – The median level of operating expenditures is $7,823 per acre of park and non-park sites managed by the agency.
- Operating Expenditures per FTE – The typical park and recreation agency spends $102,530 in annual operating expenditures for each employee.
- Distribution of Operating Expenditures – At the typical park and recreation agency, staffing costs account for 54 percent of the operating budget.
- Operating Expenditures Dedicated to Parks or Recreation – The typical park and recreation agency dedicates 45 percent of its operating budget to park management and maintenance and 42 percent to recreation.
- Sources of Operating Expenditures – Park and recreation agencies derive 61 percent of their operating expenditures from general fund tax support.
- Park and Recreation Revenues per Capita – The typical park and recreation agency generates $22.08 in revenue annually for each resident in the jurisdiction.
- Revenue as a Percentage of Operating Expenditures (Cost Recovery) – The typical park and recreation agency recovers, on average, 23.6 percent of its operating expenditures from non-tax revenue.
- Five-Year Capital Budget Spending – Park and recreation agencies will spend a median of $8 million in capital expenditures budgeted over the next five years.
- Targets for Capital Expenditures – On average, 56 percent of the capital budget is designated for renovation, while 30 percent is geared toward new development.
- Value of Deferred Maintenance Projects per Agency – On average, park and recreation agencies have $16.7 million of deferred maintenance projects on their books.
- Park and Recreation Policies – Four in five park and recreation agencies ban the use of tobacco products at most/all of their parks and facilities.
- Agencies With an Expressed Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in Their Foundational Documents – Eighty percent of park and recreation agencies have an expressed commitment to DEI in their foundational documents (e.g., vision, mission and strategic plan documents).
- Agencies With Hiring Practices and Policies That Promote a Diverse Workforce – Ninety-two percent of park and recreation agencies have hiring practices and policies that promote a diverse workforce.
Dig deeper into the 2022 NRPA Agency Performance Review data using the interactive tools. Create an NRPA Park Metrics account to build a customized benchmark report based on your preferred peer group. Go into NRPA Park Metrics to filter the data by agency type, size and geographic region. Enhance this experience even further by entering your agency’s data to compare it with the key metrics of agencies throughout the United States.
The NRPA Research team would like to acknowledge all those park and recreation professionals who made this report possible. We know this has been another difficult year for everyone and your commitment to sharing data and advancing the field through your participation in NRPA Park Metrics is incredibly appreciated.
Whether your agency represents a community of 800 or 8 million, whether this was your first year or 10th year contributing, whether you collaborated with co-workers in the office or tackled the survey from your home office, we thank each and every one of you for making this possible. Agencies that contributed to this report by submitting data within NRPA Park Metrics will be receiving their custom Agency Performance Review via email. If you would like more information on how to be a part of next year’s report, please contact Melissa May.
Melissa May is NRPA’s Senior Research Manager.