February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 16

RESEARCH
Resiliency and Recovery: The Economic
Contributions of Local Parks
By Terry L. Clower, Ph.D.
I
n recent months, the Center for Regional Analysis (CRA) at George Mason
University and the research team at NRPA analyzed the economic contributions
of local parks and recreation spending in the United States. We
changed our approach and looked at how the local parks sector performed
in 2020 - the year of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic - and 2021.
Our most important finding is
better
that local park systems proved to
be an anchor for their communities
in social, recreational and
economic terms. As many activities
were curtailed or halted in
2020, there was a resurgence in the
use of outdoor facilities, especially
publicly managed golf courses,
trails and outdoor recreation areas.
The economic activity supported
by parks operations and capital
spending were certainly important,
but even as economic researchers,
we observed the tremendous
impacts of local parks on helping
community members cope with the
disruption and devastation caused
by the pandemic. Local parks remained
safe places for gatherings,
and no-cost/low-cost park facilities
became the affordable recreational
option for households whose jobs
and income were disrupted.
Parks also became the psychological
relief valve for kids and
parents who were stuck at home
for days and weeks as COVID-19
spread through the school-age population.
The importance of the
mental health benefits of parks and
recreation was never higher than
in the past few years, and we are
pleased to see emerging research
that, hopefully, will allow us to
understand,
economically,
the mental health cost savings and
worker productivity benefits of recreational
activities made possible
by local park systems.
For most economic research, the
year 2020 will always have an asterisk
next to data reflecting that there
were nuances and uncertainty about
measuring economic performance
during the wild swings related to
business
and
government
shutdowns,
supply chain disruptions and
labor shortages due to the pandemic.
While spending by local parks
during 2020 did not decline dramatically,
there were notable shifts
in the goods and services that were
purchased. The economic inputoutput
models used in the CRA/
NRPA team analyses did have adjustments
for spending patterns focused
on the early pandemic period
of spring into early summer of 2020
and spending that occurred later in
that year. We chose to use a model
version that averages the changes in
spending across that year.
The biggest change in parks operations
during and after the pandemic
was drops in employment.
The COVID-19 pandemic emerged
at a time when park and recreation
departments usually ramp up hiring
of temporary and part-time staff for
16 Parks & Recreation | FEBR U AR Y 2 0 2 4 | PARK S ANDRECRE AT ION . OR G
spring and summer seasons. Total
labor spending in 2020 remained in
line with the previous year, but total
job counts dropped for direct hires as
well as in the number of jobs related
to park employees spending their
wages in a local economy for goods
and services. In 2021, direct employment
picked back up but remained
below pre-pandemic levels, due
largely to the labor shortages experienced
by almost all employers.
Capital spending during 2020
rose for local park systems, but
we expect much of that accounted
for higher prices for materials and
construction-related labor. In 2021,
capital spending dropped somewhat,
which, again, likely resulted
from supply chain constraints and
a drop in the issuance of new contracts
for capital projects.
In total, the economic contributions
of local parks continued to be
below pre-pandemic levels in 2021,
but still
represented more than
$200 billion in economic activity
that boosted U.S. gross domestic
product by about $97 billion. This
level of activity supported 1.06 million
jobs across the nation and added
more than $63 billion in salaries,
wages and benefits.
For more on this latest research,
including
state-by-state
estimates
of the economic contributions of
local park and recreation systems,
visit nrpa.org/Research.
Terry L. Clower, Ph.D., is Director, Center
for Regional Analysis at George Mason
University.
http://www.nrpa.org/Research

February 2024 - Parks and Recreation

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of February 2024 - Parks and Recreation

February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - Intro
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - Cover1
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - Cover2
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 1
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 2
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 3
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 4
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 5
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 6
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 7
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 8
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 9
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 10
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 11
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 12
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 13
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February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 15
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 16
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 17
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 18
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 19
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 20
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 21
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February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 47
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 48
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 49
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 50
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 51
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February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 53
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 54
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 55
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 56
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - Cover3
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - Cover4
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2024
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/february-2024
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/january-2024
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/december-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/november-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/october-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/september-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/august-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/july-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/june-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/may-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/april-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/february-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/january-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/december-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/november-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/october-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/september-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/august-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/july-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/june-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/may-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/april-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/february-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/january-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/december-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/november-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/october-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/september-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/august-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/july-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/june-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/may-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/april-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2021
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