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Ah, what a year it was! So many trails followed, bridges crossed, fields frolicked. So many classes taken, dogs walked, friends made. It would be impossible to try to count the amount of frisbees thrown, picnics had, or even how many times we entered into downward dog on our yoga mats (or perhaps your New Year’s resolution is to do this more). But one thing’s for sure: You showed up and showed out this year in true park-loving style. In fact, more than 280 million people in the U.S. visited a local park or recreation facility at least once this past year. So, with help from the National Recreation and Park Association’s (NRPA) park engagement report, let’s take a walk down 2023’s memory lane (or in this case, memory trail!) and share some of the stats.
Presence matters! According to NRPA’s survey, 7 in 10 U.S. residents have at least one local park, playground, or recreation center within walking distance of their homes.
What does this mean? You probably have one too! Unsure of where? Our Good For PA park finder is an insightful tool with a variety of helpful filters so you can find a park close to you that speaks to your set of interests.
The 2020-2024 Pennsylvania Outdoor Recreation Plan
The 2020-2024 Pennsylvania Outdoor Recreation Plan last counted about 6,100 local parks in the state (and that’s just an estimate!) – not to mention hundreds of incredible state/national parks. And hopefully, that number will only grow as the next year goes by. With that kind of statistic, there’s got to be an outdoor space walkable to you that’s just waiting to be explored!
Inclusivity is key!
Visitors frequented parks that they found to be inclusive 2x more often than parks deemed not inclusive. But, what counts as inclusivity when it comes to public outdoor spaces? There are an abundance of important ways parks and recreation departments facilitate openness and understanding for all community members of different races, ethnicities, capabilities (both mental and physical), etc.! Some easy ways to spot an inclusive park: wheelchair accessibility, adaptive playgrounds, trail markers, Braille signage, diverse park professionals, and so much more. If you’re looking to learn more, check out our blog on accessibility!
But, there’s always more work to be done! The PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources features a page dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion, with programs, policies, and other informative resources on how PA parks work to create comfortable spaces for all!
Don’t forget about rec centers!
Half of U.S. adults have, or know someone who has, participated in a park and recreation program or offering within the past year. Recreation centers don’t often get enough credit, but they are a huge part of what makes parks and recreation what it is. There’s a reason it makes up half the name! 30% of respondents listed playing some sort of sport with family or friends as their go-to when it comes to park activities – lucky for them, recreation centers often offer basketball courts, tennis courts, even pickleball courts!
What else did NRPA see in their findings? According to the survey, Baby Boomers made up the most frequent visitors of park facilities and programs. So millennials and Gen-Xers, 2024 is the time to step up your recreation game!
Just because you may not be an outdoorsy person doesn’t mean you can’t take part in your community, stay active, and experience new interests and hobbies. Recreation programs and offerings are diverse and expansive. The PA 211 features a recreation center hub where you can find all the centers and specific programs near you!
What About Pennsylvania Parks and Rec in 2023?
While we celebrate stats from parks all around the country, PA’s own 2023 track record has some fun and impressive park stats and achievements to share as well. Let’s take a look!
Governor Shapiro launched the Pennsylvania Office of Outdoor Recreation – plus, a $112 million budget to improve state parks and forests. With that investment, it brings PA to the top, making it the largest state to have an Office of Outdoor Recreation. We love to see it!
The Mount Jewett to Kinzua Bridge Trail was named the 2023 Trail of the Year by the Pennsylvania Trails Advisory Committee
The 7.8 mile trail in Mckean County features pavilions, railroad trestles, artwork and more. We may have to visit ourselves! Every year, the committee awards a trail and in fact, 2024’s winner should be announced soon. Stay tuned!
New official state parks?
How about three? 2023 brought three different parks to the forefront: Vosburg Neck State Park, Big Elk Creek State Park, and Susquehanna Riverlands. Each park offers its own incredible beauty, history, and amenities and now have the chance to develop further.
Looking for more stats? NRPA also released a report on the economic impact of parks and recreation in 2023. Take a peek at some of these incredible numbers!
Now, we think it’s time to finally look ahead. Parks and Recreation Magazine listed some trend forecasts for parks and rec to look forward to in early 2024. 2023 was great, but let’s make 2024 even better!