Parks Prove Popular During Pandemic—But Budget Cuts Loom

A lone runner wears a face covering while moving along a path in City Park early Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, in east Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A lone runner wears a face covering while moving along a path in City Park early Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, in east Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) Associated Press

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

A June survey by the National Park and Recreation Association found that a majority of Americans consider parks an essential government service, but decreased revenue from the coronavirus pandemic is likely to threaten parks funding in the future.

More than 190 million U.S. residents visited a park, trail, public open space or recreational facility at least once during the first three months of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new report from the nonprofit National Recreation and Parks Association.

The fourth annual Engagement in Parks Report, released Tuesday, is based on the results of a June survey of 1,000 adults across the country. This year’s survey was shorter than normal—“because of the dynamic nature of life during the Covid-19 pandemic,” according to the report—and featured just a handful of questions, including how the pandemic had affected frequency of park usage and whether respondents consider public parks an essential government service.

Three in five respondents indicated that they’d visited a park or other recreational space from mid-March to mid-June, and more than half maintained or increased their usage of parks, trails or open spaces during that same time period. More than a quarter of residents also said they had visited parks more frequently during those months than during the same period last year.

That’s not entirely surprising, the report notes, as parks and outdoor spaces offered a reprieve for people on lockdown at home, unable to visit their favorite restaurants and shops or to visit with friends and family members during periods of strict quarantine. Eighty-three percent of park and recreation agencies kept at least some of their facilities open during the initial wave of Covid-19 infections, according to NRPA data.

“In many communities across the nation, parks, trails and other public open spaces have been crucial resources available to people seeking a brief respite from the public health crisis,” the report says. “As businesses shut down operations during the spring, many parks and trails remained open, providing people with opportunities to safely enjoy outdoor physical activity with its many attendant physical and mental health benefits.” 

Eighty-two percent of respondents said they felt that parks are essential government services, and 72% said they were more likely to vote for local political candidates who prioritize funding for parks and recreation.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has proven that parks and recreation is fundamental to supporting the physical and mental health of people nationwide,” Kristine Stratton, president and CEO of NRPA, said in a statement. “For these reasons, people expect their local political leaders to provide the financial support needed to ensure these indispensable services continue to be available and are expanded to ensure all people have fair and just access to them.”

But funding for parks could suffer as local governments grapple with revenue shortfalls amid the ongoing pandemic. In a separate survey of state and local leaders in July, 94% of respondents said they anticipated decreased tax revenue to force cuts in a variety of programs and functions.

Those concerns can be seen already in many cities that have already experienced layoffs—local government workforces in July were down 879,000 compared to the same month last year, according to data from the federal Labor Department.

Parks officials are very much aware of the looming economic climate, according to the NRPA report. 

“It is already clear that the pandemic-fueled recession will be devastating on park and recreation agency funding, rivaling the damage inflicted by the Great Recession,” the report says. “Falling tax revenues and rising expenses are putting extraordinary fiscal pressures on governments across the nation, and political leaders are having to make many difficult decisions.”

But given the increased importance of parks during the ongoing public health crisis, the report concludes, “it would be myopic for political leaders to put an over-weighted burden on park and recreation budgets.”

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

NEXT STORY: New Federal Eviction Moratorium Covers Most Renters Through the End of the Year

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.