Park and recreation professionals make lives better for millions of people every day. Over the past year, 260 million people accessed their local parks or recreation facilities. In a time of uncertainty, parks and recreation demonstrated that it is essential, providing opportunities for peace and solace in local parks, trails and public spaces.

Since 2016, the Research team of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) has conducted a yearly survey to better understand how people connect with parks and recreation across the United States. The report provides park and recreation professionals and advocates, policymakers, and other key stakeholders with insights into how local parks and recreation facilities impact the lives of every person in our nation.

The 2021 NRPA Engagement with Parks Report makes clear this point: people place a high value on the programs and services that park and recreation agencies deliver to their local communities every day and strongly support their mission. The public’s strong and broad-based support for parks and recreation continues to be shown regardless of what the world may be going through.


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Key Findings

  • 260 million people in the United States visited a local park or recreation facility at least once during the past year
  • More than seven in 10 U.S. residents have at least one local park, playground, open space or recreation center within walking distance of their homes
  • Four in five U.S. adults seek high-quality parks and recreation when choosing a place to live
  • 87 percent of people agree that parks and recreation is an important service provided by their local government
  • Nearly nine in 10 people agree that it is important to fund local park and recreation agencies to ensure every member of the community has equitable access to amenities, infrastructure and programming


2021 Engagement With Parks Report

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Additional Resources


Engagement with Parks Report — 2020

The 2020 Engagement with Parks Report continues to demonstrate the essential value of local parks and recreation. It provides a unique look at the field during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and showcases the vital role that agencies and professionals serve in their communities.


Engagement with Parks Report — 2018

Similar to the 2019 report, the 2018 study probes the importance of public parks in peoples’ lives, including how parks rate against other service offerings of local governments. In addition, the 2018 study addresses the level of interest in improving easy access to high-quality parks and recreation facilities, including the public’s support of local officials who advocate for parks and increased funding for them.



Engagement with Parks Report — 2017

The 2017 study took a special look at parks and recreation’s role in resiliency and their special responsibility to help their communities withstand and recover from natural disasters.


Engagement with Parks Report — 2016

The inaugural edition of this study found that seven in 10 U.S. adults say they are more likely to vote for local politicians who make park and recreation funding a priority. Further, most people back increased local government spending for park and recreation agencies with solid support for a nearly 30 percent increase in funding for local park and recreation agencies.


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