Parks and recreation fosters healthy and prosperous communities. Local public spaces are for people of all ages, incomes, races, ethnicities and abilities. Local parks provided a respite during the challenging times of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and continue to be places for rest, relaxation, celebration and fellowship. Local recreation, community and senior centers offer residents a place to exercise, learn and commune. They also provide children with out-of-school opportunities, giving parents peace of mind that their children are cared for while they fulfill work and life obligations. Local park and recreation services and amenities are the result of the unwavering dedication of more than 160,000 full-time professionals and hundreds of thousands of part-time and seasonal workers that collaborate with legions of passionate volunteers. With more than 10,000 local agencies nationwide, people benefit from one of America’s most essential offerings: parks and recreation.

Local parks and recreation is a staple in communities across the country. These facilities provide a wide variety of opportunities for local residents. From offering spaces for families and friends to come together, to providing moments of peace in an otherwise busy life, to playing a vital role in healthy ecosystems and endeavoring to make those facilities inclusive to and accessible by all people, local parks and recreation offers something for everyone.

Thanks to diverse offerings, low- or no-cost programming, and the sheer number of sites from which to choose, local parks and recreation continues to play an integral role in the lives of the typical U.S. resident each year. Eighty-four percent of survey respondents — the equivalent of more than 280 million people in the United States — visited a local park or recreation facility at least once during the 12 months ending in May 2023.

Since 2016, the Research team of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) has conducted a yearly survey to better understand how people connect with parks and recreation across the United States. The report provides park and recreation professionals and advocates, policymakers, and other key stakeholders with insights into how local parks and recreation facilities impact the lives of every person in our nation.

The 2023 NRPA Engagement with Parks Report makes clear this point: people place a high value on the programs and services that park and recreation agencies deliver to their local communities every day and strongly support their mission. The public’s strong and broad-based support for parks and recreation continues to be shown regardless of what the world may be going through.

Read The Report

Key Findings

  • More than 280 million people in the United States visited a local park or recreation facility at least once during the past year
  • Seven in 10 U.S. residents have at least one local park, playground, open space or recreation center within walking distance of their homes
  • Eighty-four percent U.S. adults seek high-quality parks and recreation when choosing a place to live
  • Nine in 10 people agree that parks and recreation is an important service provided by their local government
  • Eighty-eight percent of U.S. adults agree it is vital for local park and recreation agencies to engage with every member of their community to ensure offerings meet their needs
  • Visitors who find their parks and recreation facilities to be inclusive visit these areas nearly two times as often as those who do not hold this view

2023 Infographic

Interact With The Data

Additional Resources

Engagement With Parks Report – 2022

Each year, NRPA conducts a study exploring the public's relationship with their local parks. This study examines the essential nature of local parks and recreation, including how parks play a role in deciding where to live, the number of local parks, trails and other open spaces within easy access to people's homes, and the public's desire for local and state governments to sufficiently fund their local park and recreation agencies. The 2022 Engagement With Parks Report examines the role of parks and recreation in everyday life including the public's desire for the vital services agencies bring to the community such as emergency shelters and youth employment.


Engagement with Parks Report – 2021

The 2021 NRPA Engagement with Parks Report dives into a host of topics related to how adults and their families interact with their local park and recreation system. Among many other subjects is a snapshot of when and why the public visits their local parks and other recreation facilities, the public’s wish to be engaged by their local park and recreation professionals to identify needs and desires and their support for increased funding to ensure equitable access for all.


Engagement with Parks Report — 2020

The 2020 Engagement with Parks Report continues to demonstrate the essential value of local parks and recreation. It provides a unique look at the field during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and showcases the vital role that agencies and professionals serve in their communities.


Engagement with Parks Report — 2018

Similar to the 2019 report, the 2018 study probes the importance of public parks in peoples’ lives, including how parks rate against other service offerings of local governments. In addition, the 2018 study addresses the level of interest in improving easy access to high-quality parks and recreation facilities, including the public’s support of local officials who advocate for parks and increased funding for them.



Engagement with Parks Report — 2017

The 2017 study took a special look at parks and recreation’s role in resiliency and their special responsibility to help their communities withstand and recover from natural disasters.


Engagement with Parks Report — 2016

The inaugural edition of this study found that seven in 10 U.S. adults say they are more likely to vote for local politicians who make park and recreation funding a priority. Further, most people back increased local government spending for park and recreation agencies with solid support for a nearly 30 percent increase in funding for local park and recreation agencies.


News Stories