The 4 Recreational Trends Hitting the Region

Category: News and Updates

Date: August 3, 2021

As we’ve created city-wide parks and recreation master plans over the last few years, we’ve noticed a series of recreational trends. No matter the size of the community these items are highly valued by residents in all areas. In fact, over the last year, the cities of Andover, Kansas; Joplin, Missouri; and Smithville, Missouri all shared similar wants and needs when it came to planning for parks and recreation. 

The four primary trends we identified included:

  • A greater demand for more biking and walking trails. Prior to the pandemic, trails were gaining traction in local communities. However, with more people moving outside, their usage has continued to rise. Trails are important connectors, linking people to destinations, one another, and nature.  
  • The increased popularity of adult fitness and wellness programs. With an active and growing senior population, cities are looking beyond typical playground equipment and adding amenities for all ages, like outdoor stationary bikes and step/climbers, as well as challenge courses.
  • The usage of parks and recreational assets as economic development drivers. Cities in the area are leveraging park assets to attract new businesses and residences. Meadowbrook Park is an excellent case study in how a public and private partnership can benefit the entire area. 
  • A shift toward more holistic parks and recreation master plans. Instead of focusing on individual facilities, cities are using a larger scale, strategic approach. This is beneficial, because it considers all aspects of a community and its population in the broadest sense to determine needs and solve problems. The plans provide short-term goals, which can demonstrate immediate commitment to a community, while creating a path forward to reach targets further along the horizon. 

While these four items were popular in the region, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) identified a few other trends. The first is a focus on health and health equity. Technology is another, as parks and recreation departments determine how to not only make facilities more technologically advanced, but also better utilize the data they collect. Navigating climate change and creating virtual programming are other concerns. 

One timely trend is the integration of Insta-worthy parks. In an effort to further increase facility usage, NRPA reports that many cities are incorporating photo opportunities. This tactic provides natural, grassroots promotion, as residents and visitors share their experiences online. 

In addition to these trends, parks and recreation facilities saw a surge in usage as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing practices created an increased need for outdoor spaces and recreational activities. In fact, not only did some city parks experience 50 percent¹ more visitors than previous years, but there was also a record-breaking number of bicycle sales in the year 2020. The number of leisure bike sales skyrocketed 121 percent compared to 2019². This increased need for outdoor space and recreational activities influenced trends in Andover, Smithville, and Joplin. After going through the master planning process with all three communities, it was clear the parks and recreation departments were attempting to keep up with the change in demand. They looked to our studio to help them do it. 

To learn more about our master planning process or how to incorporate these trends, contact our team here


¹ WHYY, PBS, NPR – Philly Parks Dept: City parks saw 50% more visitors in 2020, December 26, 2020
² New York Times- Thinking of Buying a Bike? Get Ready for a Very Long Wait, May 18, 2020

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