7 Vital Habits of Cutting-Edge Parks and Rec Departments


As Parks and Recreation professionals, one of your biggest challenges is not just navigating, but shaping the ever-changing landscape of our world – both figuratively, and literally. To survive and thrive as community leaders, we must all understand that there is so much more at stake than our paychecks and the growth of our organizations. There’s global health, the environment, community and well-being.

Parks and Recs get that.

Parks and Recs are change makers.

You are influencers.

And we’ve found that cutting-edge Parks and Recs focus on the following things:

They increase “playability.”

Playability is the extent to which a city makes it easy for all kids to get balanced and active play. Approximately one third of our nation’s youth are overweight or obese. As childhood obesity rates climb, less than half of children are getting the recommended amount of physical activity per day.1 Relevant departments:

  • Encourage sports participation
  • Create outdoor fitness centers
  • Build natural play spaces for longer, open-ended play
  • Offer robust programming within their parks
  • Engage in national and community partnerships such as Project Play

They advocate for change and protection in the midst of climate change.

With growing populations, the world will need to produce 40% more water, 50% more energy and 35% more food just to keep up.2 The impacts of global warming to the sea-level, extreme weather and temperature increases will stretch natural resources, and therefore our parks, more than ever before.

According to the American Planning Association, “Parks are the first and best line of defense against these changes. Urban parks cool and clean the air, improve and modify local wind circulations, and better regulate precipitation patterns. Well-vegetated parks, in a variety of forms and sizes, mitigate the impact of the urban heat island and minimize local climate change. Reduced impact of the urban heat island may prolong or even prevent more widespread global climate change as cities continue to increase in both size and number.”

Playing an active role in preventing climate change and preserving our natural resources is critical to the longevity of Parks and Recreation. For inspiration, check out what groups like Parks for Monarchs have accomplished.

They preemptively make city design recommendations based on upcoming urbanization and demographic shifts.
The nation – and world – is urbanizing. According to NRPA, nearly 75% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. This trend will be especially prevalent in the United States with up to 80% of the U.S. population predicted to live in urban areas. Millennials, now the largest generation in history, tend to prefer urban, walkable communities with cultural amenities.

While city centers will expand, the country’s infrastructure requirements for roads, bridges and sewers will also expand, competing with your funding. Being at the table with city leaders allows you to provide viable solutions and advocate for departmental and community needs.

They harness the power of data.
Analyzing enrollment, programming, facility usage and community satisfaction ultimately helps you optimize capital expenditure budgets and supports your master planning. Sharing your data and findings with other agencies like public works and city schools is also an excellent way to engage other agencies in your city, breaking down silos and ensuring mutual success.

Having a strong software partner like ACTIVE Network to help you leverage the power of your information is critical to staying relevant in a changing economy.

They maximize technology.
By 2020, there will be over 50 billion connected devices. That’s more than six per person!3 Although connecting to the outdoors through technology may seem counter intuitive, there is great opportunity in engaging the public through their handheld devices. Whether it be education, like the National Park Service’s WebRangers Program, live streaming of events or offering free wi-fi in your parks to encourage visits, technology will dominate people’s experience of the world – and their parks.

They try new things.
If you haven’t seen our recent post on new, cutting-edge Parks & Rec program ideas, make sure to check it out. Fitness enthusiast, Millennials and people of all ages, really, are interested in thinking outside the box when it comes to the outdoors, activity and health. Offering a diversity of programs, including new opportunities, will be key to engaging evolving communities.

They make a difference.
As a Parks and Recreation leader, it is you who have the power to be social equity ambassadors, providing a parks experience for people of all ages, abilities, races, income, national origins, religious orientation and more. According to the NRPA, “It is a right, not just a privilege, for people nationwide to have safe, healthful access to parks and recreation. Because of this, people connect with one another and build bonds that last a lifetime. Places transform into destinations with influx of new businesses and local economies flourish. Parks and Recreation truly build communities – communities for all.”

These are the reasons we’re proud to be associated and mission-aligned with Parks & Rec departments all over North America, to offer not only recreation management solutions, but also business partnership !



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