Parks and Recreation in the United States: Local Park Systems



June 4, 2009


Issue Brief

Reading time

1 minute


The United States has 53 national parks and over 6,600 state park sites, but many outdoor pursuits often begin at the playground around the corner, the nature center down the road, or the sports fields at a nearby recreation area. These close-to-home parks and open spaces are a critical component of the U.S. recreation estate. Characterizing and describing these resources is difficult, however, given the wide variety of parks provided in individual communities and the lack of a central organization or government agency responsible for collecting and managing data on local parks. In this backgrounder, we show some of the available information. We analyze park acreage and facilities for a set of cities, show trends in local government spending on parks and recreation services, and describe results from a survey we conducted of local park directors identifying current challenges they face and popularity trends in their parks.


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