Benefits of Parks and Recreation

American and Canadian organizations have identified four major Benefit Categories: Individual, Community, Economic, and Environmental. Within each category are dozens of specific benefits, which are substantiated by facts, field studies, testimonials and research findings. Here are some of few ways that parks and recreation works for you, your neighbors, your kids and your communities.

(For further information, including specific studies and reports, see Resources.)

Individual Benefits

Improves Academic Performance

• Better Health in Later Years
• Immediate Stress Reduction
• Increased Self-Esteem and Confidence
• Reduces Stress

Improved Academic Performance

In 1991, 75% of the children enrolled in the Fort Myers, Florida, STARS Program were making less than a C average in school. After the program, 80% of the 1,500 children enrolled had brought their grades up to a C average or better. (Healing America's Cities 1994)

Health Benefits in Later Years

Women can attain higher bone density through childhood participation in organized sports and fitness programs, thereby establishing a strong health base to combat osteoporosis in later years. (The Benefits of Parks and Recreation - A Catalogue 1992)

Improved Health Benefits Immediately

A water aerobics program two times a week for 16 weeks significantly reduced diastolic blood pressure, body fat and body weight in elderly community residents. (The Benefits of Parks and Recreation - A Catalogue 1992)

Positive Changes in Self-Concept

Significant and marked positive changes in self-concept were shown by sixth graders participating in 5-day camping programs. (The Benefits of Parks and Recreation - A Catalogue 1992)

Community Benefits

Reduces Adult and Juvenile Crime

• Keeps Kids Off the Streets
• Builds Strong Communities
• Connects Families

Reduced Incarceration Rates

The US incarceration rate average is 426 prisoners per 100,000 population. This is the highest of any country in the world. Britain's rate is 97 per 100,000. Minnesota started alternative programs in 1973 and now has an incarceration rate of 73 per 100,000. (Healing America's Cities - 1994)

Reduced Juvenile Crime

In Fort Myers, Florida, juvenile arrests have dropped 28% since 1990 when the city began its STARS program for adolescents. Cost per participant - $158 (Healing America's Cities - 1994)

In Phoenix during 1993-94, approximately 5,200 youths were detained for curfew violations. The City Street Project since 1993 is a curfew program to reduce juvenile crime and violence. Police report that the curfew program has reduced juvenile night-time criminal activity and violence with a 10.4% reduction in juvenile arrests during the first 11 months of the program. Cost per person - $105.74. (Beyond Fun and Games - 1994)

Cincinnati, Ohio initiated the Late Evening Recreation Programs in 1993. During the initial 13 week period, the number of juvenile criminal incidents dropped 24% from 645 to 491. Cost per person $56. (Beyond Fun and Games - 1994)

Increased Community Pride

In Philadelphia after police helped neighborhood volunteers clean up vacant lots and plant gardens, burglaries and thefts in the precinct dropped 90% - from about 40 crimes each month before the cleanup to an average of only four per month. (Healing America's Cities - 1994)

Economic Benefits

Increases Property Values

• Reduces Health Care and Insurance Costs
• Reduces Employee Absenteeism
• Increases Productivity
• Boosts Tourism

Property Values Increased

In Salem, Oregon, urban land next to a green belt was worth $1,200 more per acre than urban land 1,000 feet away. (Healing America's Cities - 1994)

Reduced Health Care Costs

Steelcase Corporation showed that medical costs were 55% lower for fitness program participants than non-participants over a six year period, an average of $478 for participants vs. $870 for non-participants. (The Economic Benefits of Regular Exercise - 1992)

Increased Productivity

Union Pacific Railroad found that 80% of its employees believed that their exercise programs were helping them be more productive at work. Seventy-five percent thought that regular exercise was helping them achieve higher levels of relaxation and concentration at work. (The Economic Benefits of Regular Exercise - 1992)

Stimulus for Tourism

Parks stimulate tourism activity nationwide. Two thirds of all visitors to Oregon stopped at a state park in 1993, generating an annual economic impact to the state estimated at $500 million. Oregon ranks 31st nationally in amount of state park land and comes in fourth nationally in park usage. (Oregon State Parks - 1994)

Environmental Benefits

Preserves Plant and Animal Wildlife

• Controls Air, Water and Soil Quality
• Keeps Kids Off the Streets
• Provides Accessible Places to Enjoy Nature

Pollution Controls

Greenways, which help conserve plants and trees, provide a valuable contribution toward pollution control because they mitigate water, air and noise pollution. (National Park Service - 1990)

Preservation of Natural Habitat

Without increased amount of natural habitat, forest lands, wetlands, cultural sites and recreation land, the continued degradation of habitat will continue which will undoubtedly lead to additional Endangered Species Act listings, complete with public contention and economic disruption. (Creating a Conservation and Recreation Legacy - 1994)

Air, Water and Soil Quality

According to a study conducted at the University of Calcutta, India, one tree's contribution over 50 years in controlling air pollution, soil erosion, soil fertility, recycling water and humidity is worth a total of $196,250. (Oregon Department of Forestry - 1994)

Community Support for Improved Quality of Life

In 1992, 64 percent of Los Angeles County voters approved Proposition A, the Safe Neighborhood Parks Act - a special property tax surcharge that provides $540 million to redesign old parks, buy land and build recreation facilities.

Everyone Benefits!

Everyone in the world has somehow benefited by public park and recreation programs at some time in their lives—directly or indirectly. The time has come to make the connection between past experiences and today's success, yesterday's activities and tomorrow's physical and mental wellness and today's taxpayer support and safe communities for our children and grandchildren.

So, whether an avid participant or occasional observer, enjoy the benefits. It's everyone's right!