March 2011 - Parks & Recreation - 26

Who, What, Where & hoW around the Parks

A DVO C AC Y

Parks and Recreation:
It's needed for America to prosper
By Geoffrey Godbey

T

he fattest nation in the
world has cut back opportunities for physical activity
in America's backyard-
public parks and recreation. Cash-strapped cities are cutting
investment in parks even though the evidence is they generally increase tax revenues. What happened?
Park and recreation budgets are in
crisis. Part is the result of numerous government budgetary crises and part is
the result of not understanding the positive consequences of park and recreation
services and what additional costs government will have if park and recreation
services are diminished.
Along with schools, libraries, museums, welfare agencies, and even police
and firefighters, parks and recreation services are trying to stay afloat by providing

decision-makers with data showing the
benefits of their services. Such efforts
are recent and include studies of the economic, health, and other benefits to the
community. The results of such research
have been impressive: Parks and recreation tend to increase the tax base, improve public health, and increase sense
of community. P&R contributes to wholesome youth development. Being in parks
and seeing green reduces stress and anti-social behavior. For the first time, people in P&R can identify tangible evidence
of the good things that happen because
of their existence. (Go to http://www.nrpa.
org/Content.aspx?id=4381.)
In spite of this, a problem remains. As
columnist David Brooks recently wrote in
the New York Times on organizations that
serve the public:
They assume that if they can only

SnApSHOT

Greater Use of Parks and
Playgrounds in 2009
Park users with children in the
household:
■■Greater use: 30%
■■Same use: 60%
■■Less use: 10%
Park users with children under
age 6 in the household:
■■Greater use: 38%
■■Same use: 51%
■■Less use: 10%
SouRcE: THE TRuST FoR PuBlIc lanD, 2009.

24	 Parks & Recreation					 M A R C H 	 2 0 1 1 					 w w w . N R P A . O R G

persuade enough people that their
programs are producing tremendous
results then they will be spared from
the budget ax.
They are wrong about that. The
coming budget cuts have nothing to do
with merit. They have to do with the inexorable logic of mathematics. Over
the past decades, spending in nearly
every section of the federal budget has
exploded to unsustainable levels. Each
year, your family's share of the national
debt increases by about $12,000.

The same budget problems exist in
state and municipal government, where
increased spending and bad investments
to fund retirement plans have created
havoc. The next bit of logic, however, as
Brooks points out, is that agencies such
as parks and recreation will need to
form alliances and go on the offensive.



March 2011 - Parks & Recreation

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