In the midst of a pandemic, parks and recreational facilities have proven to be popular destinations and essential infrastructure for a weary public seeking respite. Unfortunately, a recent survey by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) reveals that park agencies are struggling financially, suggesting that they will have a hard time keeping up with community needs. Specifically, budget cuts are resulting in the delay or even cancellation of maintenance and capital projects. In this article, Kevin Roth of the NRPA reveals the following key findings from the survey:
- Half of the park and recreation agencies that responded to the December Parks Snapshot survey indicated that they had reduced their previously budgeted 2021 operating spending, with a median reduction of 20 percent.
- One third of park and recreation leaders indicated in the same survey that they had reduced 2021 capital budgets in response to the current financial challenges.
- 36 percent of agencies located in large metropolitan areas were cutting back spending on capital projects, compared to 30 percent of agencies located in small metropolitan and rural areas.
- The typical agency reduced its capital budgets by 37 percent, with 1 in 6 agencies cutting capital expenditures by at least half.
These are alarming findings, especially since parks have become so important for the public’s physical and mental health and well-being. Roth indicates that deferring maintenance and delaying critical capital investments will make it more difficult for park agencies to continue serving their important roles, and concludes that “Deferring maintenance and delaying capital projects only lead to a bigger bill down the road.”