How does your agency compare with parks and recreation programs in other cities and states? The National Recreation & Park Association, headquartered in Ashburn, Va., recently released its 2009 “Operating Ratio Report” which benchmarked 3,100 agencies around the country. This is the first such report since 1992.

Some of the more interesting facts and statistics on U.S. parks and recreation programs derived from the NRPA survey include:

  • 20 – the median number of parks or sites maintained by parks and recreation agencies.
  • 450 – the median number of acres of land maintained by parks and recreation agencies.
  • 10 – the median number of miles of greenways and trails managed by city and county parks and recreation agencies.
  • 20 – the percentage of agencies that passed a bond referendum in the last five years. The last three years have seen a decrease in “yes” votes.
  • 128 – the median number of volunteers assisting parks and recreation agencies. Volunteerism is crucial to the livelihood of the vast majority of parks and recreation programs.
  • 40 – the percentage of parks and recreation agencies assisted by foundations. (A smaller percentage of respondents reported having advocacy groups to support particular parks or entire park systems.)
  • 50 – the percentage of parks and recreation programs receiving in-kind support.

Almost all parks and recreation agencies offer instructional classes and festivals/community events. The next most popular offerings are team sports, senior programs and summer camps. When evaluated by jurisdiction type, environmental education is more common for counties while fitness classes are more popular for municipal and special district agencies.

Playgrounds, picnic areas with shelters and diamond/rectangular fields are the most popular recreation facilities. Less than 2 percent of agencies charge a fee to use playgrounds, while more than half of the agencies charge a user fee for the other areas.

Reports in the study and an accompanying online database offers baseline data on community demographics, land area, budget, personnel, programs and facilities and a free Executive Summary of the Operating Ratio Report is also available. For more information or to purchase subscriptions to the full report, contact Meredith Bridgers at mbridgers@nrpa.org.