The typical park and recreation agency offers one park forevery 2,287 residents served, with 10.8 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents. But park and recreation agencies are as diverse as the communities that they serve, and what works well for one agency may not be best for your agency. Therefore, park and recreation professionals need data to identify the best practices to optimally serve their community.
That is where the 2023 NRPA Agency Performance Review comes in. This report is the most comprehensive resource of data and insights for park and recreation agencies in the United States. The report highlights 27 of the most critical park and recreation metrics collected from the NRPA Park Metrics database.
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The response by park and recreation professionals and their agencies during the pandemic highlighted how their work is essential to vibrant, healthy and equitable communities. Thanks to the hard work of the more than 160,000 full-time park and recreation professionals, along with hundreds of thousands of part-time and volunteer workers, agencies across the nation quickly pivoted resources and programming to support the public health emergency response.
Now several years removed from the start of the pandemic, the Park and Recreation Directors’ Retrospective on the COVID-19 Pandemic: Results From a Post-Pandemic Survey report takes a look at how parks and recreation responded to the challenges of COVID-19.
NRPA’s Sustainability in Parks and Recreation report highlights how park and recreation professionals are working to make their agencies and their communities more sustainable through such actions as protecting natural habitat, embracing park infrastructure, managing stormwater effectively and lowering agency water usage. Park and recreation professionals continually review and update their plans to address communities’ specific needs and goals while leveraging the latest knowledge, best practices and technology to advance sustainable efforts. This report showcases park and recreation agencies’ innate role as sustainability leaders in their communities.
NRPA partnered with the Urban Institute to develop resources that help park and recreation professionals and advocates make a health-based case for parks, including measures of the economic value to those health benefits. Explore the following resources to measure and communicate about the health and economic benefits of parks:
NRPA’s The Economic Impact of Local Parks report not only demonstrates that the nation’s local parks generate nearly $218 billion in economic activity per year and support almost 1.3 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.
The 2022 NRPA Park and Recreation Salary Survey report presents compensation data provided by agency size, type and certain demographic characteristics of incumbents in the positions (e.g., education, certifications and years in the profession). The analysis also examines factors that determine pay raises and bonuses (if offered) and highlights other benefits that comprise full compensation packages for park and recreation professionals.
More than four in five park and recreation agencies offer out-of-school time (OST) programs that serve millions of children throughout the United States. These before-school, after-school and/or summer programs provide physical activity opportunities, safe spaces for children, childcare for parents and caregivers, and social connections with peers. The 2021 NRPA Out-of-School Time Report looks at those offerings and benefits of OST programs provided by local parks and recreation. Additionally, the report delves into innovations to OST programs brought on by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, limitations found in providing additional or expanded program offerings due to funding and workforce shortages, and partner opportunities.
Each year, NRPA conducts a study exploring the public's relationship with their local parks. This study examines the essential nature of local parks and recreation, including how parks play a role in deciding where to live, the number of local parks, trails and other open spaces within easy access to people's homes, and the public's desire for local and state governments to sufficiently fund their local park and recreation agencies. The 2022 Engagement With Parks Report examines the role of parks and recreation in everyday life including the public's desire for the vital services agencies bring to the community such as emergency shelters and youth employment.
To meet the emerging health and wellness needs of the public, parks and recreation — in partnership with community members — is evolving into community wellness hubs. These hubs are trusted gathering places that allow every member of a community to connect with essential programs, services and spaces that advance health equity, improve health outcomes and enhance quality of life. The Parks and Recreation: Advancing Community Health and Well-Being report focuses on how park and recreation professionals are tackling the ever-expanding health and wellness needs of their communities, including programming, education, innovations and health equity.
Given their mission to make communities better places to live, learn, work and play, park and recreation agencies are in a unique position to champion efforts that advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Across the profession, however, gaps remain in understanding how systemic racism, unfair power structures, and a lack of cultural competency and humility affect DEI and access to quality park and recreation spaces and programs.
The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Parks and Recreation report takes inventory of the DEI activities, if any, agencies have established, the professional development opportunities provided to staff, and the challenges organizations face in their efforts to promote DEI practices.
The Workforce Development and Career Exploration in Park and Recreation report explores the benefits and goals of workforce development and career exploration programs, how these programs are offered at agencies, the role of partners in connecting participants to jobs, and the program-related challenges facing many agencies.
The report highlights the role park and recreation professionals and their agencies play in preparing youth and young adults for their future regardless of whether they continue to work in parks and recreation. Workforce development or career exploration programs expose youth and young adults to a wide range of jobs allowing participants to build self-confidence, gain valuable work experience and develop foundational skills, such as communications and financial literacy.
Park and recreation professionals and their agencies are major providers of both organized and unorganized sports program facilities across the nation. Equity is at the heart of access to youth sports. Studies demonstrate that gender, household formation and income correlate with children’s engagement with organized sports, what sports they may play and how long they engage in those activities. Unfortunately, there are significant disparities in who has access to youth sports opportunities.
The Youth Sports at Park and Recreation Agencies report explores youth sports offerings, partnerships, fees and registration, and equitable access. The report also takes a look at the impact of COVID-19 on youth sports during the summer and fall of 2020.
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.
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.
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'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.
NRPA 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.
Parks 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.
Parks 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.
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