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City park facts: spending for public parks, part 1

2017-CPE-Spending

Part of our annual City Park Facts report focuses on spending in public parks in the 100 largest US cities. This includes park agency spending on parks and recreation specifically at the city, county, state, and federal level, as applicable in a given city.

Total spending* reported in our 2017 report is $7.09 Billion, which is up slightly from $7.07 Billion in 2016. Based on the population of the 100 largest cities (currently 63.57 Million or about 20 percent of the population of the US) this works out to $76 per person in our 100 largest US cities.

*It is important to note that the spending total doesn’t include other maintenance and operation expenses that parks and recreation agencies might be responsible for, including cultural institutions, maintaining rights-of-way or street trees. Further, it is only public agencies, no non-profit conservancy or foundation totals are included.  We’ll cover the scope and role of non-profit parks foundations, conservancies and friends groups in a future post. A good source of additional information is our 2015 Report: “Public Parks, Private Money: The Triumphs and Pitfalls of Urban Park Conservancies.”

The bulk of spending in parks (just under 75 percent in this year’s report) in the 100 largest US cities is for operation and maintenance – often called O & M. O & M includes everything from lawn mowing, to bills for water, heating and air conditioning, keeping pool and fountain systems working and painting the lines on playing fields. It also includes all programmatic spending, from running recreation programs to hiring and managing life guards and running swimming classes.

The remaining 25 percent of the budget is capital spending, which covers the replacement of existing facilities, like a playground, playing field or recreation center or construction of a new facility. Generally, city parks departments have both capital and operating and maintenance budgets and they are approved by elected city officials separately and come from separate funding sources.

The challenge for many city, state and federal parks agencies is in the operation and maintenance categories. For many years the approach, when revenues are down or declining, is to defer or delay maintenance. Over time, if budgets are increased to previous levels, deferred maintenance can easily lead to capital replacement costs.

Primarily, O & M funding comes from general revenue sources in our cities.  This is primarily property and sales tax receipts. There are lots of competing interests for these general revenue dollars and the top of the list is usually public safety (fire, police and ems) and a close second is public schools. Depending on the state that a given city is located in, there may be fewer general revenue dollars coming into a given city with a higher need from the public safety agencies. Further, there may be additional demands on that local pool of funds given that fewer contributions have been coming to cities through state or federal programs, which have been generally shrinking, in the past 20 plus years.

There is also stiff competition for capital dollars. Capital expenditures in our largest US cities focus primarily on infrastructure: ranging from bridges and roads to fire stations and yes, parks. And infrastructure spending remains very low in the US.  The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) publishes a report every four years on the state of infrastructure in the US and in 2017, they give Public Parks & Recreation a D+.

Depending on which state a city is located in there are a range of methods for raising capital money. The most common is through municipal bonds, in which the city borrows against its bond rating for money that it pays back at a low interest rate. Bonds can be authorized through a public vote of a city’s citizens or in some cases, through a vote of its city council. The Trust for Public Land has worked on hundreds of campaigns for bond elections, much of which is documented in our website, LandVote.

We’ll continue this topic in a future post focusing on public/private partnerships with non-profit foundations and conservancies.

You can download the 2017 City Park Facts report for free on the Trust for Public Land website.

The Center for City Park Excellence is part of The Trust for Public Land, which creates parks and protects land for people.

Questions, comments or ideas: Contact us at ccpe@tpl.org.

City park facts: Virgina Beach has five top ten rankings in 2017

Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation has five top ten rankings in the 2017 edition of City Park Facts

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The Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence works to make cities more successful through the renewal and creation of parks for their social, ecological, and economic benefits to residents and visitors alike. To achieve this mission, we believe that residents, advocates, park professionals, planners, members of the media, decision-makers, and all those who love parks need solid data that elucidates the realities of urban park and recreation systems. Data is knowledge, and knowledge is power.

Virginia Beach is one the 100 largest US cities and ranked number 3 overall in the 2016 edition of Parkscore.  But, more exciting is its individual rankings in five out of the twenty categories that we are tracking:

  • #5 (tie) – 4.2 Playgrounds per 10,000 residents
  • #2 – 3.1 Beaches per 100,000 residents (14)
  • #7 (4-way tie) – 1.1 Nature centers per 100,000 residents (5)
  • #8– 0.8 Pickleball courts per 20,000 residents (18)
  • #9– 3.5 Tennis courts per 10,000 residents (161)

City Park Facts is a collaboration between the many city, county, state and nonprofit parks agencies and conservancies that work with us to submit their data and we appreciate their continued help and involvement. The staff of the Center for City Park Excellence works to present this information in a thorough yet easy-to-use format, and your feedback is important for future editions. You can contact us at ccpe@tpl.org.

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come.  Millions of people live near a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year.  To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.

 

 

City park facts: Washington DC has five top ten rankings in 2017

Parks in Washington, DC  has five top ten rankings in the 2017 edition of City Park Facts. Parks are operated and maintained by variety of agencies, including the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, the National Park Service and a number of non-profit organizations.

The Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence works to make cities more successful through the renewal and creation of parks for their social, ecological, and economic benefits to residents and visitors alike. To achieve this mission, we believe that residents, advocates, park professionals, planners, members of the media, decision-makers, and all those who love parks need solid data that elucidates the realities of urban park and recreation systems. Data is knowledge, and knowledge is power.

Omaha is one the 100 largest US cities and ranked number 3 overall in the 2016 edition of Parkscore.  But, more exciting is its individual rankings in five out of the twenty categories that we are tracking:

  • #3 (tie) – 97% of population within a 10-minute walk to a park
  • #3 – 2.3 Recreation/Senior Centers per 20,000 residents (75)
  • #2 – 3.5 Community Garden Plots per 1,000 residents (2300)
  • #4 – 5.3 Swimming pools per 100,000 residents (35)
  • #10 – 3.6 Splash pads per 100,000 residents (24)

City Park Facts is a collaboration between the many city, county, state and nonprofit parks agencies and conservancies that work with us to submit their data and we appreciate their continued help and involvement. The staff of the Center for City Park Excellence works to present this information in a thorough yet easy-to-use format, and your feedback is important for future editions. You can contact us at ccpe@tpl.org.

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come.  Millions of people live near a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year.  To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.

City park facts: Seattle has five top ten rankings in 2017

The Seattle Park Parks and Recreation Department has five top ten rankings in the 2017 edition of City Park Facts.

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The Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence works to make cities more successful through the renewal and creation of parks for their social, ecological, and economic benefits to residents and visitors alike. To achieve this mission, we believe that residents, advocates, park professionals, planners, members of the media, decision-makers, and all those who love parks need solid data that elucidates the realities of urban park and recreation systems. Data is knowledge, and knowledge is power.

Seattle is one the 100 largest US cities and ranked number 13 overall in the 2016 edition of Parkscore.  But, more exciting is its individual rankings in five out of the twenty categories that we are tracking:

  • #8 (tie) – 93% of population within a 10-minute walk to a park
  • #4 in spending per resident – $252 total, $204 operating, $47 capital (all per resident)
  • #9-two way tie – 1.3 Beaches per 100,000 residents (9)
  • #5 – 1.7 Community Garden Plots per 1,000 residents (1113)
  • #6 (tie) – 1.6 skateboard parks per 100,000 residents (11)

City Park Facts is a collaboration between the many city, county, state and nonprofit parks agencies and conservancies that work with us to submit their data and we appreciate their continued help and involvement. The staff of the Center for City Park Excellence works to present this information in a thorough yet easy-to-use format, and your feedback is important for future editions. You can contact us at ccpe@tpl.org.

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come.  Millions of people live near a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year.  To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.

City Park Facts: Volunteering in Parks

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Volunteers on the Barton Creek Greenbelt, Austin, TX 2011

In our press release announcing the 2017 edition of City park facts, we focused on the role and the importance of volunteers working in park systems in our 100 largest US cities. We have not reported this information in prior years, but we’ve included it in the downloadable spreadsheets at www.tpl.org/cityparkfacts/  We also wanted to expand upon the data a bit this blog post.

Volunteers in parks and recreation perform a wide of variety of roles, from coaches, referees and volunteer groundkeepers to helping plant, weed, mulch and water.  Volunteers work alongside park staff as individuals and groups.

So, here are theshighlights of the impact that volunteers make in our park systems by highlighting the results in 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2016:

Volunteer hours have risen from 9.8M in 2008 to 16.4M in 2016.  (It was 11.2M in 2010 and 15.5M in 2013.)

The value of those hours has risen from $206M in 2008 to $411M in 2016.  The value is calculated using data from Independent Sector, which calculuates the value of an hour of volunteer time by state every year.  (It was $250M in 2010 and $282M in 2013.)

Assuming that a full-time parks staffer worked 2,080 hours a year (40 hours times 52 weeks), volunteer hours are equal to an additional 4,733 full-time positions in 2008, growing to 7,895 positions in 2016. (It was 5,391 positions in 2010 and 7,440 positions in 2013.)

Looking at the value of volunteer hours as a percentage of the operational budget for parks in the 100 largest US cities, it was 4.1 percent in 2008, growing to 5.8 percent in 2016.

City Park Facts is a collaboration between the many city, county, state and nonprofit parks agencies and conservancies that work with us to submit their data and we appreciate their continued help and involvement. The staff of the Center for City Park Excellence works to present this information in a thorough yet easy-to-use format, and your feedback is important for future editions. You can contact us at ccpe@tpl.org