2020 NRPA Agency Performance Review

The typical park and recreation agency offers one park for every 2,281 residents served, with 9.9 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents. This report summarizes the key findings from the National Recreation and Park Association’s NRPA Park Metrics, our benchmarking tool that assists park and recreation professionals in the effective management and planning of their operating resources and capital facilities. Taken together, this report and NRPA Park Metrics represent the most comprehensive collection of park- and recreation-related benchmarks and insights that inform professionals, key stakeholders and the public about the state of the park and recreation industry.

Read the Report


Engagement with Parks Report

Each year, NRPA conducts a study exploring the public’s relationship with their local parks. This annual study probes the essential nature of local parks and recreation, including how parks play a role in deciding where to live, the public’s likelihood to vote for local political leaders who make park and recreation funding a priority and how parks, trails and other open spaces are being accessed. The 2020 study also takes a closer look at how people accessed their local parks, trails and open spaces during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, thanks to the hard work of park and recreation professionals.



Park and Recreation Agency-Foundation Relationships: Partnering for the Future

The majority of the nation’s more than 10,000 park and recreation agencies rely on taxpayer support and generated revenue as their primary funding sources. Unfortunately, the typical agency does not receive sufficient funding to fully deliver on its mission. As a result, many park and recreation agencies partner with nonprofit park foundations or “friends groups” to ensure every community member has access to high-quality park and recreation programming and facilities. Read this report for evidence-based best practices that optimize these relationships and for a detailed snapshot of the benefits and challenges that exist between agency-foundation relationships.


Park and Recreation Salary Survey

Park and Recreation Salary Survey Report The NRPA Park and Recreation Salary Survey report provides comprehensive salary data and benefit policy details for 10 typical park and recreation positions based on a survey of 470 agencies across the US. The full report also includes sample job descriptions and agency organization charts.


The Economic Impact of Local Parks

Economic Impact of Local ParksNRPA's Economic Impact of Local Parks Report not only demonstrates that the nation's local parks generate more than $166 billion in economic activity per year and support more than 1.1 million jobs from operations and capital spending alone, but also highlights the significant economic contributions of local parks in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This report demonstrates that parks are powerful engines of valuable economic activity and deserve support and recognition from elected officials, policymakers and the public.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure in Parks Report

Green Stormwater Infrastructure in Parks Report Cities and towns across the nation are turning to Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) investments to reduce and treat stormwater flooding. These nature-based methods, such as permeable pavement, bioswales, stream restorations or tree canopies, also offer communities many additional health and wellness benefits, opportunities for social cohesion and improved economic prosperity. This report highlights green infrastructure projects at park systems, including issues surrounding funding, stakeholder engagement, and how to measure these investments’ long-term benefits.

Park and Recreation Marketing and Communications Report

Park and Recreation Marketing and Communications Report The NRPA Park and Recreation Marketing and Communications Report examines the methods and means agencies use to share their vast array of offerings to the community. Getting the word out to the public about what park and recreation agencies do is a great challenge. One solution to this challenge is for agencies to invest in marketing and communications strategies—although accomplishing this is no small feat. Building awareness, boosting revenue and enhancing public support and engagement are key goals for park and recreation marketing and communications strategies. This survey explores the various methods and tactics used to market to community members, the use of partners for greater reach, the role of social media in marketing and communications, typical budgets and number of personnel devoted to this effort, and much more.


Farmers Market Report

Farmers Markets Report The Farmers Markets—Parks and Recreation Connecting Communities to Healthy Foods report explores the role park and recreation agencies play in bringing farmers markets to their communities. The report explores markets’ product and services offerings—spanning from fresh produce and protein to entertainment and educational programming, as well as the organizations that agencies partner with to make their markets successful and the challenges they must overcome.

NRPA Awareness and the Use of Parks Report

Awareness Report NRPA’s Awareness and the Use of Parks report explores the role awareness plays in driving park and recreation usage and presents a series of steps that park and recreation leaders should consider when executing an awareness strategy. The report also studies the steps taken by two cutting edge park and recreation agencies to promote greater awareness of their offerings.

NRPA Out-of-School Time Report

Out-of-School-Time-Survey-Results-Report-Thumbnail NRPA's Out-of-School Time Report, based on the responses from a July 2018 survey of 334 park and recreation agencies, celebrates how OST programs are making a real difference in the lives of their communities’ youth. The study also highlights what more can be done and the obstacles that must be overcome to deliver on these programs fully.



Promoting Parks and Recreation's Role in Economic Development

NRPA Economic Development ReportNRPA's Promoting Parks and Recreation's Role in Economic Development report explored the role that quality park amenities play in 21st century regional economic development. Based on conversations with more than 70 park and recreation professionals, economic development practitioners and site-location consultants, this report highlights the important supporting role parks and recreation in recruiting and retaining businesses and skilled workers.


Park and Recreation Inclusion Report

Park and Recreation Inclusion ReportNRPA developed the Parks and Recreation Inclusion Report to provide greater insight into how agencies across the United States ensure that all members of their communities can enjoy parks and recreation. The study also highlights the significant challenges facing the industry in delivering on this promise. 


Local Government Officials’ Perceptions of Parks and Recreation

Local Government Officials’ Perceptions of Parks and RecreationParks and recreation is predominantly a service provided by local governments and therefore is reliant on financial support from local governments’ general tax funds. However, local governments fund and manage a variety of different public services. This report will help park and recreation professionals understand how local government officials view and prioritize these services. Read more about the study here.


Healthy Aging in Parks Survey

Healthy Aging in Parks Survey ResultsPark and recreation agencies are in a unique position to ensure that the needs of underserved older adults are being met. Based on survey responses from 524 park and recreation professionals, this study explores how park and recreation agencies and their staff serve older adults.



Park and Recreation Sustainability Practices

Park and Recreation Sustainability PracticesParks are key community stakeholders when it comes to addressing the effects of climate change. From protecting water resources via green infrastructure practices, to reducing urban heat island effect through city wide forest restoration - parks play a critical role in ensuring that our communities successfully adapt and thrive in light of a rapidly changing planet.


Homelessness in Parks Survey Results

Historically, park and recreation agencies have had a complicated relationship with the homeless community they serve. On one level, public parks are resources for the entire community, providing valuable services to all people. On another level, the prevalence of homeless individuals using park resources can put great pressure on the finite resources of park and recreation agencies. The circumstances of homelessness vary significantly by city, with each park and recreation agency facing a unique set of challenges and holding a unique perspective.  As a result, mitigating homelessness cannot be the sole responsibility of one agency or one department within a city. In all, nine out of 10 urban park and recreation agency directors report that their city has tactics and strategies in place to alleviate homelessness in the community.


Using Data at Park & Recreation Agencies

Using Data at Park and Rec AgenciesIn recent years, park and recreation professionals have increased their use of data analysis to support decision making. The insights gleaned from data analysis help agencies make informed programming decisions for their facilities, help optimize capital expenditure budgets and support master planning. At the same time, many park and recreation agencies face the daunting challenge of identifying how to best take advantage of the great promise data can bring to their agencies. Based on the feedback of 58 directors from urban park and recreation agencies, this study looks at how park and recreation agencies are embracing data today and to identify the barriers that inhibit greater use of analysis.


Americans’ Broad-Based Support for Local Recreation and Park Services

Americans Support for Recreation and Park ServicesAmericans cherish their local public park and recreation services, seeing them as valuable features of their communities, towns and cities. In fact, Americans almost unanimously agree that their communities benefit from their local public parks, even if they are not regular park users. This passion for local public parks has gone unabated during the past 25 years even as our nation and the ways we interact and entertain each other have dramatically evolved. Read the study and dig deeper with interactive graphics.


Relevant Research for Practice

Relevant Research for Practice 2017The following reports translate key academic research findings for everyday park and recreation professionals. Included are summaries of more than 70 peer-reviewed research articles published between 2012 and 2017. For each report, you will find a summary of each articles’ key findings, the full reference, contact information of the primary authors and (if available) links to download the full academic articles.

Read more about key academic research findings here.


Active Transportation and Parks and Recreation

Active Transportation and Parks and RecreationParks and recreation agencies have historically been closely aligned with the goals of active transportation principles, as well as playing an important role in the development and management of active transportation infrastructure. It is difficult to imagine a truly comprehensive active transportation network that is not touched by a park and recreation agency, and in many cases parks and recreation agencies are the primary providers of active transportation-related services. Through active transportation, parks and recreation agencies provide valuable benefits to communities by providing an engine for economic development, increasing health and wellbeing, supporting conservation and providing benefits to all advocates regardless of socioeconomic status. Download Active Transportation and Parks and Recreation.


Safe Routes to Parks: Improving Access to Parks through Walkability

Park Access ReportAccess to parks increases one's level of physical activity, therefore parks are an important destination that should be easily accessible to all advocates. This report explores the obstacles limiting walkability to parks and identify the essential elements of a safe route to a park. Additionally, this report assesses the barriers to walkability, determines the key stakeholders responsible for creating safe routes to parks, identifies strategies on building awareness on the importance of walkability, and recognizes current initiatives on improving safe routes to parks. Download Safe Routes to Parks: Improving Access to Parks through Walkability.



Older reports can be accessed here:

Research Report Archive

Case Studies


Issue Briefs


For more information about research papers, contact NRPA Customer Service at 800.626.NRPA (6772)


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Va. county surveys residents about winter indoor options