Public Perceptions of Local Parks and Recreation as an Essential Community Service During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Keywords:parks, recreation, COVID-19, health, social connectedness
Local residents are the primary stakeholder for municipal parks and recreation who have the potential to influence funding and policy through their participation, voting, and advocacy. Research has suggested that individuals are more likely to support parks and recreation and view them as essential when they perceive they provide benefits that address their own as well as broader community needs. This panel study investigated Pennsylvania residents and the extent they considered parks and recreation an essential community service during the COVID-19 pandemic. It further assessed the rationale for why parks and recreation were considered either essential or non-essential during this time period. A majority of respondents (54%) felt local parks and recreation were an essential service in their community during the pandemic based primarily on their perceived contributions to physical health, mental health and wellbeing, and the safe provision of recreation opportunities. Conversely, parks and recreation were considered non-essential when they had been closed, when individuals were unsure of what services were actually provided during the pandemic, or they were perceived as unsafe or unsanitary given the presence of COVID-19. Findings provide evidence of the contributions provided by local parks and recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic and suggest influenceable factors associated with perceptions of whether parks and recreation are an essential community service.
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