trendSCAN - October 2019

trendSCAN October 2019


In this version:

  • Did You Know?
  • Signs of the Times
  • Can Cities Legislate Nature?
  • Can Cities Legislate Nature?
  • Recreation Centers Redesign – Athletic Business
  • Life Changes in American Since 2003• Where Play and Learning Merge – Urban Thinkspace
  • E-Gamers Bet on Their Own Skills
  • Emerging/Evolving Models
    • Unleashing the Power of Texting
    • Kids Meals in Minutes Making Big Money


The Power of 1. More powerful than a full-blown research study or stat –
It’s the Power of 1 that can serve as an inspiration for one staff member or one department to make a small change that holds the potential for making a significant impact.

Talking for Your Supper. That’s the opportunity afforded a party of four at Fresno’s Curry Pizza . If customers agree to lock up their phones, they can enjoy a free pizza. An added benefit for the pizzeria is that the free pizza eaters can then text or snapchat their friends boasting of their free pizza for the price of talking with one another.




Takeaways, a set of quick comments or questions as to how a particular trend or innovation potentially impacts parks and recreation.  It is featured right at the beginning of every trendSCAN so that readers and innovators can quickly identify trends and ideas and then move on to added insight identified in the body of information. 

Community Conservation. Citizens in places large and small are becoming increasingly concerned or attentive to saving our natural spaces and resources. Hopefully, not all citizens have to bring legal action which is time-consuming and costly, but our departments can take steps to bring incremental environmental changes to our operations and be sure to share the actions widely with the public and enlist the involvement with interested parties. (Can Cities Legislate Nature?)

Forward-Thinking Future. Be sure to check out the suggestions in the Athletic Business’ article “Recreation Centers Redesign”. The ideas included in this version of trendSCAN are a good start, but you might want to peruse the full article for further information. It’s not just about the demographics (although they are important) but the bigger issues of changing needs, patterns, and preferences. (Recreation Center Redesigns – Athletic Business)

Developmental Packages. Pre-packaged toys and meals for children are experiencing a great deal of popularity now. The emphasis upon growing with a child physically and developmentally is a key success ingredient. Check your programs, services, and equipment and remind parents of the physical and developmental changes that you have built into them as well. (Signs of the Times – Baby Toys and Emerging Models – Kids Meals)

Making the Most of Small Places and Spaces. Check out the use of bus stops in West Philadelphia and the roofs of bus stops in the Netherlands to ascertain some of the small spaces in your parks and facilities that could be put to good use. (Did You Know? And Where Play and Learning Merge – Urban Thinkspace)

Only 20%. Since children spend approximately 20% of their time in formal schooling that likely means that there are other hours, they spend un-supervised or at play. Make a renewed effort in providing not only safety but games and activities that inherently hold the potential for acquiring important life-time skills during the out-of-school hours. (Did You Know?)

Bringing Everybody to the Table. Yes, board games are making a comeback; likely as a reaction to the growing numbers of hours people spend at screens. What could be an easier than setting up board games or teaching people how to play more interactive games. Hint: Be sure to allow time for game players to return all materials to the set. (Did You Know?)

For the Birds. The trend related to the number and types of birds in the U.S. is pretty frightening. Now might be the time to host a bird walk complete with identification or specify those parks where certain types of birds can be found. You could even launch a social media contest where people send in pictures of birds they found in various parks. If you don’t have a person with that knowledge on staff, contact the Audubon Society, a group that would likely be happy to partner on such activities. (Did You Know?)

Friends and Families. One of trendSCAN’s techniques for trendtracking is “Friends and Families”. Bring a small group of staff together and have them create lists of changing patterns of behavior or preferences among their own friends and families (no names, please). From a compilation of those lists arrive at possible ways your organization can support or adapt to those lifestyle changes similar to the suppositions that were made by Mark Wilson when describing changes in time use for FastCompany. If you identify the reason behind the behavior, you can make other organizational changes to better serve people. (Life Changes Since 2003)

Bullying Counter-Behavior. It is likely that by now most all agencies who deal with children have an anti-bullying policy. Find ways to help children of all ages and stages deal with bullies and add those techniques to staff training especially for those staff working in afterschool or camp programs. If bullying is happening online, it continues to happen everywhere. (Did You Know?)

Growing Income Gap. The income gap in the U.S. continues to grow and that likely carries over to a gap in leisure expenditures and experiences. Make sure that even though your ball fields are at capacity, equipment full out during prime time, and classes fully subscribed that you don’t assume that everybody, especially the children, in your community are being served (Did You Know?)

The Latest in Tech Applications. One of the architects interviewed for the Athletic Business article on future rec centers was Stephen Springs of Brinkley Sargent. Springs provided a list of tech innovations appropriate for rec centers. These can be found at (Recreation Centers Redesign – Athletic Business)


Did You Know?

Highest Income Inequality Ever. In the 50 years since the Census Bureau has been tracking income inequality in the U.S., the gap between rich and poor expanded between 2018 and 2018 to its highest level ever.

The Alzheimer’s Reality. Every 65 seconds in the United States someone develops Alzheimer’s disease. There are an estimated 5.8 million people in this country alone. The number is projected to rise to 14 million by 2050 (Alzheimer’s Association, 2019 annual report)

U.S. Esports Spending. According to Pricewaterhouse, esports in the United States including spending by consumers and advertisers, media rights and sponsorship revenues is anticipated to reach $516 million by 2030 from the 2018 spending of $221.6 million.

Golden Age of Board Games. Board games have risen again as sales of board games at Amazon is in the double digits; sales at hobby and game stores increased between 15% and 20%; attendees at last year’s Table Top Convention was 19,000 and this year rose to 49,000; and Kickstart funding for board games raised $52.1 million this past year which was 15% more than video game startups. (

Military Suicides Increase. The rate of suicide in the military increased to its highest level in five years. The rates of suicide were 24.8 per 100,000 people in 2018; 21.9 per 100,000 in 2017; and 18.5% per 100,000 from five years ago (The Pentagon)

Student Debt Sets a New Record. Last year’s graduate with a bachelor’s degree left school with a record setting debt of $29,200 contributing to the country’s overall student debt of $1.6 trillion. (Institute for College and Success)

Disappearing Birds. North America has lost 3 billion birds since 1970. The overall bird population in the United States and Canada has declined by 29% in the past five decades. Talk about the canary in the cold mine effect? (The New York Times)

Teens’ Depression and Anxiety. A recent Pew Research Center survey of teens ages 13 to 17, found that 70% of them believe that anxiety and depression are major problems among teens with another 26% indicating that these two conditions are minor problems.

Online Gaming and Harassment. The Anti-Defamation League/Newzoo’s online game survey found that at least half of players reported some form of harassment. Some of those figures for the following games included: 79% for Dota 2; 75% Counter-Strike-Global Offensive; and 75% Player Unknow’s Battlegrounds. The ever-popular Fortnite players reported 70% having been harassed and even Madden NFL ranked at 67% harassment.

Money On Children’s Education. Children spend 20% of their time in school while public funding targets nearly 100% of its spending in classrooms. (Herald Tribune)


Signs of the Times

Living with Mickey Mouse. Golden Oak development is the only place where people can live within the magic (and luxury) of Disney since it is located on Walt Disney property in Orlando. These homes aren’t for everyone as the starting prices are in the mid-$2 million. The majority of homes are used as vacation homes and for the first year owners receive three years of Disney Platinum Plus and five additional one-day theme park with park hopper as well. The other special bonus of ownership – sneak previews and other special events, i.e. sneak peak at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge before it was open to the public (USA Today)

Amazon Goes Renewable. Amazon has decided to reach one element of the Paris Climate Accord ten years ahead of time as they commit to purchasing 100,000 electric vans and pursuing 100% renewable energy.

University of California Going Green. The University of California is ridding itself of its nearly $84 billion pension and endowment investments in industries such as oil and gas.

Vineyards Recognizing Role of Climate Change. Vineyards are adopting new strategies to address increasing drought and fear of fire including changing the ways in which grapes are watered and even purchasing land in higher altitudes. (USA Today)

Baby Toys that Grow with the Baby. Lovevery Play Kits have been designed to engage babies at every stage of development. The initial kit is designed for 0 to 8 weeks with activities for visual engagement and the 7 to 8-month version of the kits focuses upon motor skills and problem solving. (FastCompany)

Beefy Vending Machines. As if we needed any additional indication that Americans are overly busy and seeking convenience make way for meat vending machines. In New York as Applestone Meat Company opens its third 24/7 store with vacuum-packed meat vending machines. The company’s store in Pound Ridge, NY is so successful that they are opening a Grill Park with 8 charcoal grills open to anyone to cook dinner even if food even was purchased elsewhere. (USA Today)

Census Updates. The 2018 Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage report for the United States was just released this month. Among the headlines were the median household income was not statistically different from the 2017 median; the official poverty rate decreased 0.5% point from 2017 and the rate and number of people without health insurance increased from 7.9%, or 25.6 million, in 2017 to 8.5%, or 27.5 million, in 2018.

Saving on Rent. Sixty-three percent of people living in urban areas said they would live with a roommate to save on rent. Other reasons to share abodes included: safety/security at 27%; prevent being lonely at 25%; to grow social circle at 25%; and to be close to people with similar interests or professions at 21% (Cred Karma Survey)

Package It Up and Deliver. The online subscription model for meals and products has grown from $57 million in 2011 to $2.6 billion in 2016 according to a 2018 study by McKinsey & Company Consulting.

Another Version of Camping. First there was ‘glamping’ with the semi-luxury of sleeping out under the stars and now there is ‘gramping”. A 2018 AARP survey found that 61% of grandparents indicated they were interested in traveling alone with their grandchildren, an approach often referred to as “skip-gen trips” and 32% have already done so

Bee Parks. In the Dutch city of Utrecht, the roofs of hundreds of bus stops are covered with low-growing sedum succulent plants. It’s not to make them look good (though it does). It’s to create new habitats for bees and butterflies in the middle of the city which have been lost over time. The tiny bus-stop gardens also help prevent flooding and keep the city cool. It’s urban diversity at its best. (


Can Cities Legislate Nature

This article written by Valerie Vande Panne featured in took on just this topic and the current state of progress results in some very interesting emerging trends for parks, recreation, and the environment.
The Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR), a bill recently passed by the citizens of Toledo, OH. Once implemented will grant Toledo’s citizens the right to use the existing legal and regulatory framework to stop anything that would cause continual harm to the Lake Erie ecosystem.

This approach referred to as the ‘rights of nature’ is a legal shift, that reflects the growing cultural belief of the community rights movement that it based upon the premise that members of communities have the right to decide on issues that directly impact upon them and can include such things as the minimum wage and pesticide spraying.

What’s the situation on Lake Erie?

Algae blooms are flourishing in Lake Erie and other places as well. The blooms are credited to the runoff from nutrients from agriculture and lawn fertilizing. This year the algae blooms left residents without clean water for many days. Lake Erie impacts 11 million people and when all five of Great Lakes are added to the mix it becomes a watershed area for tens of millions of people. The concern is that the toxic algae blooms and other risks will make the waters unable to support plant, animal, and marine life and subsequently human beings.

Despite their success at the ballot box and similar initiatives in other smaller communities this year’s 2,500-page Ohio state budget bill, approved by the state legislature and signed by its Governor Mike DeWine, included language against the rights of nature, and measures that protect the agriculture industry from lawsuits.

What’s Happening Elsewhere?

Newport, OR, has become the Oregon Community Rights movement’s biggest success to date. In 2017, the community passed a ban on aerial spraying of pesticides. Almost immediately a suit was filed against the ban. Though the lawsuit continues, the ban is still in effect because a vote was involved.

Grant Township, located outside of Pittsburg, PA with a population of just over 700 voted In March of 2014 to “prohibit the disposal of oil and gas extraction waste material into injection wells. The ordinance affirmed the community’s right to self-governance, clean water and clean air. The ordinance was meant to stop local energy company PGE from dumping fracking waste in the community. This resulted in another lawsuit.

Since the judge in this initial case said that Grant Township lacked the authority to stop an injection well. the very next year Grant Township adopted a home-rule charter and backed by the authority of the charter, the community adopted (by popular vote) a ban on injection wells. Now, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is suing the township for trying to protect its environment claiming that Grant is inhibiting DEP’s ability to carry out gas policy

Other Nations

Other nations have recognized the rights of nature and have used their legal systems to do so. Ecuador has the rights of nature in their constitution. Bolivia and New Zealand have taken similar actions.


Recreation Centers Redesign - Athletic Business

Athletic Business, a long-time source of information and insight for parks, recreation, and fitness, recently published an article that was an update to a 2005 article on technology and the future of recreation centers.  Written by Paul Steinbach this article incorporated the insight from contemporary architects and included predictions and possibilities such as…

Wellness and Technology

  • Individual wellness will still play a big part in the centers of the future
  • Technology in smart buildings will adapt to behaviors of participants while using and making decisions about temperature, lighting, acoustics, etc.
  • Data on participant behavior and patterns can lead to energy saving measures as well as insights for programming preferences

Transition to All Things Wellness

  • Nathan Harris, an architect with RDG Planning and Design, interviewed for the article cited centers as “the center” of major wellness that could include hospitals, healthy restaurants, farmers markets, skate parks, amphitheaters, community gardens, water features, splash pads, ninja courses, etc."
  • Harris went on to add that spaces like teaching kitchens for nutritional education, classrooms for financial education or for religious groups to gather, and massage rooms for relaxation
  • This architect also cited trauma yoga programs to help victims of traumatic events, nature therapy to connect participants with the outdoors, and sound therapy to relieve stress or anxiety."

More Natural Wellness

Emily Parris, an associate of Sasaki, predicts seeing a more environmental focus on wellness with activities and spaces that allow people to interact with nature including organic gardening, composting, beekeeping, etc.

Virtual Reality

Eric Kocher, a principal at Hastings+Chivetta, imagines a future in which recreation centers are warehouses of haptic rigs (spheres with a simulated sense of touch) where participants can play basketball, racquetball and soccer, fencing and perhaps even swimming and diving together. 

Stephen Springs of Brinkley Sargent Wiginton Architects, sees the future of recreation through VR headgear, but with even more dimensionality and sensory immersion. He cites the recent introduction of the data-driven design tool Hyperform that allows global collaboration with augmented reality.  Want to hike Mt. Everest or take on a boxing contender as a partner? 

Design Flexibility

The burgeoning and changing expansions of recreation interests and pursuits will result in the absolute need to construct facilities and design for flexibility in the near future and there are additional techniques for accomplishing this as well.

Please Note: These suggestions from architects included in Steinbach’s article goes beyond the ideas cited here in trendSCAN.  So please visit the Athletic Business site at for additional information.  A free subscription to their magazine can be ordered there as well.

Source: “The Rec Center of the Future” Athletic Business, September 2019


Life Changes in America Since 2003

A new interactive timeline by Flowing Data provides a visual representation to the responses from people who participated in the American Time Use Survey.  FastCompany’s Mark Wilson points out the power of this flowing data as well as sharing information from this survey that compares how life in the United States has changed between 2003 and 2018. Wilson reports the following and even suggests reasons for the changes as follows:

  • More people spend more time eating and drinking now and the proportion of Americans doing food preparation and cleanup has jumped notably too. Wilson suggests that this change reflects the  foodie culture facilitated by the cooking and travel-eating shows on TV.  He also believes that the meal-prep services may be helping more Americans cook than they did in the 2000s.
  • Americans report spending less time shopping these days perhaps due to Amazon and other online options, but Americans also appear to spend less time “socializing and communicating” and suggests that Facebook could play a role in this change.
  • We travel less and are also spending less time with our children, perhaps because we have less discretionary income even though both parents are working as a necessity
  • Wilson suggests that we might be a  culture dealing with increasing stress and anxiety as more people report exercising and spending time with pets. Even gardening, another stress-reducing activity, has seen a small boost.

Greater specifics of data can be found by searching for Fast Company – How Life Has Changed.


Where Play and Learning Merge - Urban Thinkscape

Have you observed this playground scenario recently?  Playgrounds where parents glued to their phones oversee children playing on swings and tackling climbing spaces.  While this is not true in all instances, it is a pattern that has taken root with parents sitting playing on their phones and children playing on their own.

Enter Urban Thinkscape.  Urban Thinkscape transforms city areas into opportunities for playful learning opportunities by adding durable, replicable, and attractive activities that challenge AND encourages caregiver-child interactions. 

What does this look like? One such Urban Thinkscape is a former empty lot next to a bus station in West Philadelphia, PA   Puzzles at bus stops stimulate spatial skills; movable parts on park benches become opportunities for exploring language, color, and numbers; and on-site signage and a website connecting caregivers to additional information and resources about the links between play and learning.  More information and ideas can be found at

Urban Thinkspace is part of the Harvard University Center on the Developing Child and features example of ‘urban thinkspacing’ and easy to absorb information on child development with more specific techniques for parents and child-care givers than one can imagine.  These and a host of other resources with videos can be found at  


E-Gamers Bet on Their Own Skills

Imagine if you had a talent or skill related to egaming that you could earn money based upon those assets?  That possibility has all changed for amateur e-gamers who now have Play One Up, an Apple app that can connect players on Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 for online matches for Madden, NBA2K, and FIFA2019. Plus, they can even bet on themselves against other players.

Play One Up focuses upon console games while a competitor, Skillz is a platform for both Apple and Android apps.  Skillz, a San Francisco based company, has 28 million registered users and has distributed prizes to the highly skilled.  Another group, GameCo, has received the go ahead in Las Vegas to place its machines in casinos enabling gamers to take on a one-to-one match with a competitor or enter a tournament of players. Esports has evolved from a children’s games to professional esport leagues and now has expanded so un-affiliated individual sitting at home can earn cash.  (USA Today)


Emerging/Evolving Models

This section of trendSCAN illuminates activities and actions that organizations take when responding to changes and innovations in the world.  But rather than throwing out everything they have done previously, they do a ‘180’.  A ‘180’ involves taking an existing product, service, or system and modifying it to reflect the changes in the world rather than doing away with the basic concept entirely.

Unleashing the Power of Texting

The joys of texting can send messages of cancellation or ask family members to pick up groceries on their way home.  There are likely a myriad of other options as well. While there are a few health initiatives that use texts for more than information, i.e. encouraging people to resist smoking, etc., there is actually a limitless number of ways in which helpful texts or reminders can support people.  Last year the Bezos Family Foundation was responsible for creating a way that parents could sign up for weekly texts that featured timely information enhancing their child’s learning and well-being.  The texts worked better than emails as some individuals either don’t have the time or access to internet-connected mail.  Well-timed and well executed text messages have been found to lead to increased reading to children by parents; better Head Start attendance; and even better outcomes for high school students.The start-up effort, Vroom, offered more than 1,000 quick tips based on brain development knowledge that parents can adapt or apply while feeding and dressing their children with the focus on self-control, understanding perspectives and perceptions and other skills linked to success in school.The goal is focused upon helping all parents and caregivers by providing them with a quick, user-friendly adaptable way to improve learning.  Check out

Kids Meals in Minutes Making Big Money

Pre-prepared meals for people to make and serve a good meal may have been the beginning but the subscription meal services for kids is growing more quickly than broccoli.  Two companies, Yumble and Nature Life, position themselves as being different from the other prepared food companies by offering meals specifically for children.  Some approaches include:

  • Yumble’s box has a TV-liked dinner with sticker sheets and activity books for the kids while awaiting the microwave
  • Yumble’s meals include kid-friendly portion sizes and includes such favorites as turkey cheddar pinwheels and chicken pops made of ground chicken rolled in panko crumbs.
  • Nature Life is a bit more adventurous with food choices including such alternatives as cheesy zucchini pomodoro and Thai coconut chicken
  • Nature Life also creates products for various age groups including babies, toddlers, and children up to 18 years of age and alter the size of portions and changing food types as children grow up.

Source:  USA Today


trendSCAN is created by Dr. Ellen O’Sullivan for the California Park & Recreation Society.  Ellen welcomes your comments, questions, and feedback and can be reached at