September 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 26

RESEARCH
Park and Recreation Infrastructure Is Critical
By Kevin Roth
I
nfrastructure is a word that has been tossed around a lot in recent years.
Policymakers have talked about the need for not only shoring up the
nation's deteriorating infrastructure, but also building more to support
a growing, more diverse population. More recently, investing in infrastructure
has gained renewed interest in the context of the economic recovery
coming out of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. But, at times,
parks and recreation has not had a seat at the table for these conversations.
The pandemic demonstrated
to many people what we already
knew: parks and recreation is essential
infrastructure.
Local park
and recreation agencies across the
United States maintain millions of
acres of parkland, sprawling trail
networks and other
According to NRPA Park Metrics
(nrpa.org/ParkMetrics),
NRPA's
public open
spaces that promote better physical
and mental health, serve as a meeting
place that brings family, friends
and fellow neighbors together, and
contribute as an integral part of
community environmental and disaster
response. Park and recreation
infrastructure itself is diverse and
includes recreation centers, community
centers, nature centers, pools,
sports fields and courts, bridges,
outdoor lighting, electrical and water
utilities, and many other assets.
Park and recreation infrastructure
is as critical to the vitality of cities,
towns and counties as are the assets
managed by any other government
agency
and
department,
including
those of public works, utilities,
transportation and education. But
at the same time, park and recreation
infrastructure does not benefit
from sustained funding support that
many of these other entities receive.
The result of the funding disparity
is aging assets that are falling
in disrepair even as park and recreation
usage rises to record levels.
26 Parks & Recreation | SEP T EMBER 2 0 2 1
benchmarking resource, park and
recreation agencies have on average
$17.4 million in deferred maintenance
projects on their books. Considering
the more than 10,000 local
park and recreation agencies of
varying sizes and missions, NRPA
estimates that the total value of deferred
park and recreation maintenance
at agencies across the nation
exceeds more than $60 billion.
The American Society of Civil
Engineers gave a D+ rating to park
and recreation infrastructure in its
2020 Report Card for America's Infrastructure
(tinyurl.com/up5me3b9).
The
report notes a D grade, indicating
" [t]he infrastructure is in poor to
fair condition and mostly below standard,
with many elements approaching
the end of their service life. A
large portion of the system exhibits
significant deterioration. Condition
and capacity are of serious concern
with strong risk of failure. "
But it is not just about maintaining
existing infrastructure. Parks and recreation
must grow and evolve to continue
serving communities. And, this
means new construction. The U.S.
Census Bureau estimates state and
local governments spent more than
$10 billion in 2020 on building parks,
community centers and sports infra|
PARK S ANDRECRE AT ION . OR G
structure (tinyurl.com/ppcmp92t).
Remarkably, this matches 2019
spending levels after adjusting for
inflation. Even better, it was up by
more than 40 percent versus 2013
expenditures. But the bad news is
that park and recreation infrastructure
is struggling to keep up with the
population it serves. Park and recreation
construction spending in 2020
only matched spending in 2009, even
though the nation's population has
risen nearly nine percent.
The underinvestment in park and
recreation infrastructure is not due to
a lack of desire by the public. More
than nine in 10 respondents to the July
2021 NRPA Park Pulse Poll (nrpa.
org/ParkPulse) agree it is important
for their local government to invest in
community infrastructure, including
parks, community and senior centers,
and recreation facilities. In a time of
seemingly great political divisiveness,
the nation is united in its support to
fully fund park and recreation infrastructure,
with no difference seen by
the gender, age, race, ethnicity, income,
education and household formation
of respondents.
The ubiquity of support is a part
of the solution to fund park and recreation
infrastructure. The general
public agrees that your work is essential.
Next month we will review
the findings from the 2021 Engagement
With Parks Report that further
make the case for greater and more
sustainable funding for the work you
and your fellow park and recreation
professionals deliver every day.
Kevin Roth is NRPA's Vice President of
Research, Evaluation and Technology
(kroth@nrpa.org).
http://www.tinyurl.com/ppcmp92t http://www.nrpa.org/ParkMetrics http://www.tinyurl.com/up5me3b9

September 2021 - Parks & Recreation

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of September 2021 - Parks & Recreation

September 2021 - Parks & Recreation - Intro
September 2021 - Parks & Recreation - Cover1
September 2021 - Parks & Recreation - Cover2
September 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 1
September 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 2
September 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 3
September 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 4
September 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 5
September 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 6
September 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 6a
September 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 6b
September 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 7
September 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 8
September 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 9
September 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 10
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September 2021 - Parks & Recreation - Cover3
September 2021 - Parks & Recreation - Cover4
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
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com