Current Challenges, Funding, and Popularity Trends in Local Parks and Recreation Areas: Responses to a Survey of Park Directors



March 31, 2009


Margaret A. Walls, Juha V. Siikamäki, Sarah Darley, Jeffrey Ferris, and Joseph Maher


Issue Brief

Reading time

1 minute

Most outdoor recreation opportunities in the U.S. begin at a local neighborhood park. These parks, along with numerous nature centers, hiking trails, recreation facilities, and playing fields are provided and maintained by local governments. As part of a broader research study of conservation, recreation, and open space and in support of the bi-partisan review commission, the Outdoor Resources Review Group, Resources for the Future conducted a survey of city and county parks and recreation department directors in the fall of 2008. A structured mail-survey was sent electronically to 89 individuals identified by the National Recreation and Parks Association and the City Parks Alliance as city and county parks and recreation department directors. Forty-six out of 89 surveys were completed and returned, for a 52 percent response rate.

The survey included a wide range of questions regarding current issues and challenges facing local governments and the parks and recreation areas they provide. For example, we asked for budget information and sources of funding, including information on volunteers, park “friends” groups and conservancies; and financing referenda. We also inquired about the perceived popularity trends of a variety of local recreational activities, and asked about the primary challenges that the communities are facing. The survey instrument developed and used for this research is included in Appendix A.

The purpose of this document is to summarize responses to the survey. In the following, we present the key summary statistics of responses for each question. Our summary covers the entire survey and proceeds systematically, question by question, from the beginning of the survey to the end of it. The survey instrument in the Appendix provides a helpful context for examining the results. This report includes only summary statistics, and it does not comprise any further analyses or interpretation of the results. However, the survey responses, along with additional information and analysis, will contribute to broader research studies being conducted as part of the Outdoor Resources Review Group efforts.


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