Embracing & Managing Change in Parks & Recreation during COVID-19

Fall Program Industry Report

Parks & Recreation departments across North America are having to adapt and pivot their day-to-day activities as a direct result of the pandemic. As a direct consequence, many agencies are adopting novel strategies and programs.

In a recent feature published in Parks & Recreation Magazine, the NRPA’s monthly magazine, some interesting snippets were quoted from a survey conducted by the NRPA, with the full report due to be released in November 2020.

Nationally, more than half of the Parks & Recreation professionals surveyed* – 58%, expect COVID-19 to have a significant, detrimental impact on fall programming, with only 10% expecting mild or no impact.

One respondent, Josh Medeiros, superintendent of the city of Bristol (Connecticut) Department of Parks, Recreation, Youth & Community Services mentioned the specific challenge of finances, driven by the need to modify programs and buy extra protective equipment. A great example of this, was 30 kids participating in the free soccer skills class, (instead of the usual Fall Soccer League), who would normally only use 5 or 6 balls, but now require 30 balls for 30 kids.

ePACT’s own recent research study highlighted that in excess of 90% of respondents had implemented new measures as suggested by health authorities, including increased cleaning, physical distancing, smaller group sizes and higher investment in Person Protective Equipment (PPE).

In spite of these challenges, Parks & Recreation professionals and their departments continue to deliver essential services in their communities. These include:

  • Supporting food distribution to older adults – 29% and vulnerable youth and/or families – 28%
  • Opening agency facilities to serve as virtual learning centers – 25%
  • Providing flu shots – 20%.

A recent NRPA Parks Snapshot, just published, mentions that two-thirds of all organizations have opened all their recreation centers and/or indoor aquatic centers to the public and are actively promoting safety at their facilities by implementing a number of strategies, namely:

  • Installing signage warning of COVID-19 risks & reinforcing physical distancing practices – 82%
  • Establishing policies to reinforce face coverings when using facilities  -78%
  • Additional hand sanitizing/washing stations to encourage hygiene  -77%

As a direct and lasting positive response to the pandemic, Parks & Recreation professionals have risen to the challenge by taking action and implementing new policies and pivoting with new and innovative initiatives:

  • Delivering recreation programming virtually  – 66%
  • Improved coordination with local public health  – 47%
  • Providing programming focused on mental health and well-being – 36%
  • Closing streets for pedestrian traffic and adding open space – 8%

Some of the positive comments shared that highlight the lasting impact of COVID-19:

This whole COVID process has brought a new creativity to our department and awakening to the safety of the whole community. Despite its difficulties, it has brought our department together to provide what we can for all of the people.”

All staff have been trained by our local police [department] in de-escalation. We have two levels of training. Managers/All other. This will continue after COVID-19 due to the positive response from the community and our staff safety.”

At ePACT, our mission is to provide you with the safest, most seamless method to collect, store and manage electronic health records & emergency information. We place vital tools such as contactless check in/out, daily health screening and pre-screening tools in your hands,  to help Parks & Recreation departments re-open and stay open securely.

To see how we are doing this in conjunction with many Parks & Recreation agencies, visit us here.

In the meantime, stay safe and healthy!



*source: Kevin Roth Vice President of Research, Evaluation and Technology at NRPA