Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Water, Water, Everywhere: Local Parks, Water Resources, and Economic Vitality

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Water, Water, Everywhere: Local Parks, Water Resources, and Economic Vitality

Article excerpt

IN SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE'S "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," the mariner bemoans his predicament adrift on the sea stating, "Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink!" As many people around the nation know first-hand, an excess or dearth of water can mean disaster. But water is still the natural feature most associated with recreation in people's minds. Thousands of communities have parks or tourist areas that are dependent on use of adjacent water resources. Ocean shores, inlets, bays, swamps, lakes, and rivers all provide for recreational experiences that draw millions annually.

In many cases these interactions occur in local parks. Many communities rely on these locations for their economic vibrancy and jobs. Over the past 30 years any number of cities have followed the successful lead of Baltimore's Inner Harbor and eliminated the warehouses and shoreline factories to revitalize their city by emphasizing the waterfront for residential, commercial, and retail use.

So despite the ravages of floods and the tribulations of drought, parks and facilities that provide users with access to water recreation are a major attraction to local parks. NRPA's PRORAGIS (Parks and Recreation Operating Ratio and GIS) can shed some light on water access and recreation. While the current PRORAGIS database is a bit too sparse to reflect the actual interaction with water resources, the 2009 Operating Ratio Survey showed the following facility presence (below).

As the table indicates, both the access to water and related support facilities are relatively common in local parks departments. Perhaps, it is no surprise that the counties have the majority of these types of facilities.

This presence of water-related facilities is also supported by some of the outdoor recreation participation data collected by other organizations. Between 2006 and 2009, the participation rates for water-related activities mostly increased. The biggest drop in participation was in fishing. This decrease more than likely reflects the severe droughts in the Southeastern states. In general, the data show the participation in water-related activities is increasing and the presence of water-related facilities is constant. …

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