Floyd, M.F., Suau, L.J., Layton, R., Maddock, J.E., & Bitsura-Meszaros, K. (2015). Cost Analysis for Improving Park Facilities to Promote Park-based Physical Activity. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University, NC Cooperative Extension Resources.
Because public parks are widely available in communities across the country, parks are recognized as important environments for promoting active lifestyles. A growing number of studies suggest that parks contribute significantly to physical activity among adults and children. Research conducted in parks demonstrates that particular areas within parks produce more activity than others. Results from these kinds of studies have inspired researchers to more closely examine the potential of parks to promote physical activity. These examinations use intervention studies and natural experiments. In these studies, researchers are able to obtain baseline measures on park use and activity in a park before an improvement occurs and compare the measures to data obtained following the improvement. Such comparisons evaluate the extent to which park facilities encourage increased use and activity levels. Studies of this kind show promising results. In general, parks are used more often and users are more active following improvements or renovations.
Translating this research evidence to on-the-ground planning and construction inevitably shifts the discussion to financial considerations. What are the financial costs of adding or maintaining new facilities that could increase use and activity? What are the life span costs relative to increased use and additional physical activity? Answers to such questions can provide objective information to park officials, policymakers, and citizens to help them make more informed decisions about park facilities construction to promote active lifestyles. Park and recreation agencies at all levels of government are challenged now more than ever to provide high quality services in a fiscally conservative environment. As public parks and recreation facilities are increasingly positioned as health resources, greater demands for providing and using parks are expected. Park improvement projects with the stated purpose of encouraging activity need to be supported by data on the financial costs associated with making such improvements.
The goal of this analysis is to provide realistic and objective estimates of costs of providing park facilities that can increase physical activity.
This report was funded by Active Living Research through a Commissioned Analysis Report.