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A recap of the 2021 recreation trends affecting community centers and predictions on how they will change programming throughout the year.

Changes caused by the pandemic are leading recreation professionals to wonder if they’re here to stay. Some of the biggest shifts we’ve encountered so far have been to virtual engagement, outdoor programming and an emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion. But what else might the industry see this year and how will these trends change?

On January 1, the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA), published a “Top Trends in Parks and Recreation 2021” article. Below is a recap of those top trends and predictions affecting community recreation centers:

Health Equity. This trend was already on the rise for the community recreation industry and was magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent surveys conducted by NRPA show 60% of agencies are supporting food distribution, food pantries, COVID-19 testing, daycare for children of essential workers and first responders, and safe places for learning.

Many in the industry have begun making great efforts to address equity, such as the YMCA of Greater Houston, who recently increased pay for all frontline staff as a first step in addressing equity within the organization.

The prediction is an increase in awareness of systematic social inequities, racial injustice and environmental inequities, and positive actions to correct historic inequities to help reverse these trends.

Climate Change. We already know outdoor programming is being utilized more than ever for fitness classes, community events, after school programming, sports and soon again, summer camps. With the accelerating impacts of climate change becoming more widely known, this may affect the way members view and are able to utilize your outdoor spaces.

Increasing temperatures across the U.S. will begin to impact all forms of outdoor recreation and have the ability to limit these popular programs, especially for youth. This impact also falls heavily on low-income communities that tend to be park-deficient.

The prediction is a need for more parks and green space designed with resiliency in mind. For example, spaces that protect against flooding, produce shade and promote not only environmental resiliency, but also social.

Virtual Programs. It’s no shock to the industry that staying virtually engaged will continue into 2021, and beyond. While many are already incorporating esports, virtual 5ks and on-demand fitness, NRPA presented a new take on how the industry might utilize the virtual world.

The prediction is live streaming youth sports events. This idea shows parents and families dropping off kids for events and watching from the parking lot, maintaining physical distance and honking to show support.

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Brittany Howard

Brittany is the editor of Community Rec Magazine. Reach her at brittany@peakemedia.com.

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