It is the purpose of this research to examine the historical trends of parks and recreation funding, and investigate the funding roles for the various providers of these resources. Through research into the case of the State of Minnesota, local government, and private partners therein, this study sheds light on the future of public funding for parks and recreation areas. In addition, this research will highlight the tactics currently being employed to meet the demand for park facilities and services, especially given the ongoing trend of reduced federal funding for local parks and recreation. Given these conditions, it is now more critical than ever to continue exploring innovative funding mechanisms among local government and private sector partners.
Since the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been the primary funding source for recreation and conservation purposes. Related to the provision of funding to state and local parks and recreation facilities, the Stateside Program is a subset of the LWCF that focuses on the support of state and local projects. This model has proved to be an effective method of forging partnerships between federal, state, and local governments to complete large recreation projects. According to the National Park Service, over 7 million acres of new park and recreational lands have been added through the Stateside Program. However, the funding for the Stateside Program's projects from the LWCF has drastically reduced over the last 40 years.
Similar to the Federal Government, state governments around the United States have been an active funder and partner in the development of parks and recreation facilities. In the case of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the main entity responsible for maintaining and establishing parks and recreational facilities around the state. The following charts represent the main revenues and expenditures for the MN DNR:
The complete expenditure and revenue reports can be found here:
The state continue to play a large role in the development of parks and trails. This support directly benefits the Regional Park System in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board serves as an excellent case study of how local recreation budgets must react to reduced funding from partners. Due to cuts in Local Government Aid (LGA) and reduced funding from grants, the Park and Rec Board must increasingly rely on local property taxes.
The 2012 Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board budget can be found here.
If decreasing levels of funding continue for park and recreation facilities, especially local facilities, non-governmental supporters of recreation space will be tasked with filling the funding gap as best they are able. There have been many cases of private and non-profit groups supporting parks and recreation in Minnesota. One such case can be found here.
Supporters of parks and recreation facilities must be aware of decreased levels of federal and state funding. Relying on property taxes for almost all local recreation funding is an unsustainable proposition.