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Study Finds Parks and Rec Agencies Taking Lead in Protecting the Environment

Seventy-one percent of the park and rec agencies say they’re aware of the amount of water they use in their day-to-day operations, and many have taken steps to address the problem.
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A study by Landscape Structures Inc., a leading manufacturer of commercial playground equipment, and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) finds U.S. parks and recreation agencies fully engaged in environmental stewardship, although budget cuts threaten their progress.

Nearly 450 parks and recreation agencies participated in the Environmental Stewardship in Parks and Recreation study, which concluded in January 2009. The study goals were to quantify environmental initiatives and identify the challenges faced by parks and recreation departments.

The number one environmental challenges facing the agencies in the next two years is funding, followed by “struggling with the effects of reduced water supply.” Seventy-one percent of the agencies say they’re aware of the amount of water they use in their day-to-day operations, and many have taken steps to address this problem:

  • 54 percent have implemented reduced watering practices
  • 52 percent have installed water-efficient toilets and faucets
  • 52 percent have installed water-efficient irrigation systems
  • 15 percent use collected rainwater to supplement their use of fresh water

Other Findings

Eighty-seven percent of parks and recreation agencies rate their environmental stewardship practices “good to excellent,” while only 13 percent rate themselves “below average or poor.”

The study finds park and rec officials believe they should be the environmental leaders within municipal government and encourage members of the community to be better environmental stewards. In the last five years, environmental stewardship has become more important to 80 percent of agencies, and more than 60 percent believe their management team is well educated about environmental issues and procedures.

Parks and recreation officials were asked which stewardship initiatives they’ve adopted. The top five responses included using recycling bins for bottles and cans, reducing paper use by printing on both sides, programming appliances to switch to sleep mode when not in use, converting to compact fluorescent light bulbs and purchasing/using fuel-efficient vehicles.

Initiatives parks officials say they plan to adopt include programs to purchase environmentally-preferable products, design and construct green buildings, using biodegradable products in maintenance/cleaning, convert to compact fluorescent light bulbs and increase natural light in new and newly renovated buildings.

Many agencies look to develop a “green team” to focus on sustainability initiatives.

Pat Faust, president of Landscape Structures, hopes this study will encourage lawmakers and governmental leaders to support green initiatives and maintain proper funding of municipal parks and recreation programs.

“Only 13 percent of agencies produce an annual sustainability report that shares their environmental aspirations,” notes Barbara Tulipane, NRPA chief executive officer. “In this economic climate where agencies must fight for every dollar of government funding, success will often be determined by the awareness and mobilization of our constituents. This all starts by communicating our accomplishments and goals.”

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December 7, 2019, 3:59 am PDT

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