NRPA Parks Snapshot: April 1-3 Survey Results

By Kevin Roth | Posted on April 3, 2020

Parks Snapshot April3 blog 410

The NRPA Parks Snapshot provides the latest data on how park and recreation leaders from across the country are confronting the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope you find this information helpful as you make decisions at your agency during this uncertain time, while continuing to follow the guidance provided by your local and state governments and health officials, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

We will continue to provide weekly data from the NRPA Parks Snapshot survey, as state and local guidance and ordinances regarding COVID-19 are changing rapidly.

Among the key findings from the most recent survey:

Open/Closed Parks and Amenities

Similar to the previous week’s findings, the April 1-3 survey found that:

  • 74 percent of park and recreation agencies are keeping their neighborhood parks open
  • 71 percent of agencies are keeping their regional or “destination” parks open
  • 91 percent of agencies are keeping their trail networks open
  • Of those that have them, at least half of agencies also are keeping their community gardens (63 percent) and dog parks (50 percent) open, although percentages for both decreased slightly from the previous week. 

However, compared to the previous week, there have been substantial increases in total closures of:

  • Playgrounds (91 percent)
  • Permanent restrooms (79 percent)
  • Beaches (71 percent)
  • Temporary restrooms (59 percent)
  • Outdoor sports fields and courts (56 percent)

Physical Distancing

Park and recreation agencies are using various methods of promoting physical distancing at their open parks, trails and other outdoor amenities. The top three methods agencies are currently using are:

  • Signage (81 percent)
  • Public service announcements on local media (74 percent)
  • Self-policing (69 percent). 
    • Two in five agencies are discouraging congregating groups by removing recreation amenities (e.g., basketball hoops, tennis courts). Agencies also are using staff to enforce physical distancing, including park rangers and/or police dispersing crowds and staff serving as "ambassadors" to educate park users of acceptable activities. 

Virtual Programming

Sixty-three percent of agencies are delivering virtual recreation programming via YouTube, social media channels, public access TV channels and other online delivery methods. The most common virtual programming offerings are:

  • Family engagement activities
  • Fitness classes
  • Arts and crafts projects
  • Self-care and well-being tips

Staff at Closed Facilities

Park and recreation agencies have had staff displaced from closed facilities, whether it be a recreation center or the agency's headquarters. How the agencies have reassigned the affected workers can vary significantly across (and within) agencies. Among full-time workers:

  • 75 percent of agencies have staff working at home conducting their regular duties
  • 52 percent have affected staff working at home conducting other responsibilities that are not typically part of their normal duties 
  • One in five agencies have reassigned some of these full-time employees to support outdoor activities 
  • Two in five agencies have the displaced full-time workers use this time to take online professional development/training
  • Some agencies do not have work for the affected employees:
    • 28 percent are having some of their displaced employees use vacation time, sick leave or paid time off
    • 19 percent have displaced full-time staff on paid administrative leave
    • 3 percent have laid off full-time staff previously assigned at now-closed facilities
    • 51 percent report having laid off part-time staff from these facilities

Budget Cuts

Forty-five percent of park and recreation agencies have been asked to reduce operations spending from their current and/or next fiscal year's budget:

  • 42 percent of agencies have been tasked to cut spending from the current budget year, with a median target of a 20 percent reduction
  • 18 percent of agencies have been seeking to slash spending from next year's budget, with a median 10 percent reduction

View the Full Survey Results

The full results of the survey include verbatim comments shared by park and recreation leaders across the nation on their agencies’ experiences in confronting COVID-19. This is an uncertain time with many unanswered questions, and we encourage you to continue the conversation with your colleagues around how your agency is confronting COVID-19 on NRPA Connect.

For more information about NRPA’s response to COVID-19, as well as available resources for park and recreation professionals, please see our Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) webpage.

Kevin Roth is Vice President of Research, Evaluation and Technology at NRPA.