trendSCAN - April 2020

trendSCAN April 2020


In this version:

  • Did You Know?
  • Signs of the Times
  • Impact on COVID19 for Different Generations
  • Why California Fared Better than New York
  • Earth Day at 50
  • The Future of the MegaCities
  • The Virus and Its Vices
  • Rising Value of Technology
  • NRPA’s Snap Survey on Status of Parks and Recreation 


Takeaways for 2020 and Beyond

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.

Here Comes Summer – Trends Into Practice (TIPs)

Keep in Mind.  Our “Reset” Future.  It is always easier to look at the downside of a situation but that rather does much good so Keep in Mind the Following as Parks and Recreation heads into the great reset.

  • Our Value. Parks and recreation has very much been in the news during COVID19 because people have been bemoaning those parks, trails, and beaches that are not open to them and those that have limited access.  People value us and have been reminded as to how much they value us and why we are important to them.
  • We’re Essential. The challenges of staying in isolation and at home either alone or with full houses has brought to the forefront the importance of physical health through exercise and games AND our inherent value for mental health as both stress and socialization has been discussed extensively in the news. Physical Health, Mental Well-being, and Social Connectedness are those essential benefits that parks and recreation make happen.
  • Our Profession. The members of our profession are people who are both passionate about what we make happen for people and creative when it comes to delivering those things.  This is evidenced by the hundreds of ways that departments who are technically closed have gone out of their way to innovate ways to deliver activities and stay connected to their community.

Earth Day and the Results.  What better time than the 50th anniversary of Earth Day to examine the important changes with positive results for the environment that have sprung from that movement.  Please take a look at those changes on page 7.  Some of us weren’t alive then and some of us were too young then and there were many of us who may have forgotten. 

Check out the CDC.  The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has several lists that relate to steps for park and recreation to take related to the virus.  Naturally, you will need to incorporate your own local regulations, but these are good sources for getting re-started or staying started.

Make Your Case.  A most recent NRPA poll found that five in six adults found exercising at local parks, trails, and open spaces has been essential to maintaining their health.  Spread the word.

Negative Impact of Social Isolation.  Social isolation has led to the growth of some ‘less than desirable’ behavior patterns among them physical activity, lack of genuine socialization, among others.  We now have time to make plans for how to ameliorate these behaviors.

Reposition as Essential.  Do not toss out all the great benefits of parks and recreation that we have accumulated over the years, but NOW we must push to the forefront, those benefits that are ESSENTIAL.  What are those essential benefits:  Health (physical and mental) and Safety and Socialization.  Right out of Maslow’s hierarchy. 
Maslow Hierarch of Needs

Additional information can be found by visiting Ellen O’Sullivan’s slideshare at LinkedIn or

NO Business as Usual.  The term  “back to business as usual” is certainly not one we will be hearing ever in the next year or so.  Since we are going to have to deal with these challenges why not consider a term that suggests you are making progress as you move forward in the new normal.  Consider one of the following terms:  Rebound (bouncing back to serve residents and community after a challenging time).  Reframe (adapting to the ‘new normal’ by changing the ways parks and recreation now provides services. 


Did You Know?

Racial Divide in Illness.  There is a  saying that “when America catches a cold, black people get the flu.” Well, in 2020, the Mayor of Atlanta, GA augmented that saying to include when America catches coronavirus, black people die. Blacks in about every state with available racial data have higher contraction rates and higher death rates of COVID-19. (Brookings)

Worsening Mental Health Among Parents.  A Kaiser Family Foundation survey conducted at the end of March found that 57% of mothers and 32% of father with children under 18 reported worsening mental health.  With many of them working full-time from home; working in risky situations or just trying to survive while also trying to be teachers for their children.  This all  takes a toll.  (Axios)

Insurance Payout.  Wimbledon has paid pandemic insurance for 20 years and now it is receiving $141 million (Morning Brew)

Reluctant to Return to Stadiums.  A poll about large sporting events was conducted between April 6 – 8 by the Sharkey Institute of the Stillman School of Business.  When asked what they would do if the leagues resumed play before there was a vaccine, only 12% indicated that they would attend but only if social distancing could be maintained. A whopping 72% said they would not attend until there was a vaccine.  (Athletic Business)

Clusters of Virus Not Equally Distributed.  U.S. urban cores, racial minorities (especially black Americans), and those who cast votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016 disproportionately comprise counties where COVID-19 cases are currently clustered.  This is a stark contrast to areas where there is a low level of coronavirus exposure. These characteristics are not necessarily factors that make a place more susceptible to the virus (although high population density in urban cores can speed the spread), but instead they reflect similarities among harder-hit regions.(The New York Times)

Leaving the House.  A Civic Science poll conducted during the week of 4/8 – 4/14 of this year found that 42% of those surveyed have left the house only one time; 26% left two times; 13% left three times; and 19% left four or more times.

First Date Preferred Activities.  OkCupid surveyed its users to determine if they had a preference for virtual dates.  Game playing or a similar activity was a favorite at 31%; 29% wanted digital dinner and drinks; 25% preferred a basic video chat; and 10% thought that watching a TV show or movie together would be a preference.  (Axios)

Mixed Reviews on Healthy Habits. A Gallup panel conducted between March 27 – 29 revealed that 38% of those people asked said their exercise habits had gotten worse during the pandemic and 28% indicated their diets had gotten worse.  Some good news as 14% and 13% indicated that amount of exercise and diet had improved.


Signs of the Times

Snap Safe.  Global agency, we are social, released Snap Safe, which is an augmented reality lens for Snapchat that can help people practice social distancing when out in public.  If someone gets too close it provides the user with a message to stand back and save lives. (trendwatching)

The Power of Peloton.    During this time of ‘staying at home’ Peloton reached the largest number of participants in one streaming class with 23,000 people cycling together.  While originally this company’s stock got off to a rough start, the stock price increased by 60% since mid-March (Morning Brew)

Natural occurrences.  There are swarms of birds appearing on Florida beaches early because the beaches are empty.  A herd of deer paraded through a Grand Rapids. MI neighborhood on Easter Sunday, and there are even rarely seen whales playing off the shore areas in South Africa.  Guess the social isolation sends a signal to wildlife that their playgrounds are now deserted, and the habitat is available for them. (multiple sources)

Fortnite Marathon.  In April of this year, fans in Italy had what Bloomberg News called a “Fortnite Marathon” that drove internet traffic up by 70%.

Online Fitness.  Fitness studio, AARMY, experienced 18,000 viewers signing in for their classes in the first 24 hours it was offered.  They can provide space for about 60 participants in their studio (Essentials)

Virtual Events.  People especially Gen Z and the Millennials are missing some of their more major life events such as graduations, proms, weddings, etc.  The loss of closure and genuine sense of loss for missed milestones is significant.  One brand, Teen Vogue, will hold a prom on May16th complete with celebrity appearances, screen shots, and DJ sets.  Prior to the prom, Teen Vogue will be featuring makeup lessons, styling suggestions, and even dance classes. (Cassandra Daily)

Uber Helping with Connections. Uber has started a service where people can do a bit more that staying connected with technology.  Now one person can send to another friend or relative living in the area a physical something such as a favorite book or extra hand sanitizer.  It can be a ‘no contact’ delivery.

Digital First Dates.  The online dating service industry believes that one impact of COVID19 on its industry is there will no longer be as many  ‘physical first dates’ or meetups as people are finding it safer, less embarrassing, and easier to conduct those initial meetings online. (Axios)

Fortnite Record.  A record 12.3 million players concurrently logged on to Fortnite to watch Travis Scott perform complete with psychedelic outbursts.  (Morning Brew)

Homebodies.  Watch for the potential increase of a number of industries clustering around the “homebodies’ industry even after the virus and its social isolation is over.  (Nielsen)


Impact on COVID19 for Different Generations

Things will not return completely to normal. The virus and the economic tumult that accompanies it are transformative events and will likely change lifestyle and financial choices for every one of our generational groups.

Baby Boomers will go online and stay inside

Baby Boomers people born from 1946 to 1964 are a group that has long denied that it is aging and vulnerable.  This virus has changed that.  They have become more comfortable with technology.  That technology use may influence their lives as they move forward.  Boomers who were told that they are more “at risk’ from the virus have stayed home and while staying home have pursued grocery delivery, direct consumer goods, and home subscriptions to entertainment.  This generation may not have liked Skype, FaceTime and Zoom before the crisis, but now consider these alternatives as the new way to stay in touch with friends and families.  They may decide this is a fairly convenient way to live and just stay at home and have the world come to them.  Big Change for this group.

Gen-X, new perceptions.

Generation-X the people born between 1965 and 1980 have always been known for being ignored or overlooked.  They were the first generation to grow up in households of divorce or with two working parents.  They became quite independent since they were often ‘latchkey” or ‘home alone’ and didn’t have to be told to stay put.

This generation has been subject to three significant economic events in their careers:  9/11, the Dot Com Bubble in 1999, and the Great Recession in 2008.  Now that they are faced with yet another disruptive disaster , they may emerge thinking in depth about how they might want to live, work, and play in the remaining decades they have left. 

The work changes will be both voluntary and involuntary, but their vision will not feature a beaches or cross-country RV travel.  They will consider ‘passing the torch’.  They may start looking at succession plans for their businesses and lives.  They will help others by teaching, writing, coaching and speaking. All this as they wander off to a new version of the sunset.

Millennials and stability

It is always helpful to remember that this group born between 1981 and 1996 are well on their way into adulthood with the oldest of the group turning 40.  Millennials have been defined by three earth-shattering events: 9/11, when nearly all of them under the age of 18 and the 2008 Great Recession as they were getting ready to graduate or get started with their adult lives.  Now here they are as maturing adults faced with new challenges when they are entering what most people consider their prime.

Known as job-hoppers and unengaged workers, these approaches are far more difficult to hold on to in a time of economic distress.  This is almost like a “depression-era” moment for this group.

Look for them to shift priorities to savings and stability and shedding networking and conspicuous consumption. 

Gen-Z reevaluating  their future

Gen-Z those people born between 1997 and 2012 are most likely either graduating from high school or college and/or getting ready to attend college or enter the work world.  Talk about reframing educational priorities.  Some will see their parents nest egg for their education significantly reduced while others will be unsure of taking on the sizeable debt that such education brings.  

In 2018, only 14% of parents were willing to take on over $75,000 in student loans for their children’s college. That number will be lower for both parents and kids after this crisis is over.

The high prestigious colleges will always find students drawn to them and public colleges will become far more desirable as well as distance learning as many educational institutions expand online offerings to lower cost and provide more free online content.

Some may choose to pursue professional certificates online in highly marketable competency eras giving them an edge in the work world without the time and debt.

COVID-19 has changed everything and it is likely each generation will be impacted differently.  The author concludes by hinting  (or hoping) that maybe all these issues will result in organizations working together. 

Source:  Business Insider


Why California Fared Better than New York

Why wasn’t the spread of the virus and its impact even worse in California?  Scientists are scrambling to understand why mitigation efforts were so successful at flattening the curve in California especially when compared to hard hit New York.  Some factors they cite include:

  • Early social distancing. Californians were beginning to keep clear of one another even before the social distancing order, while New Yorkers were still packing bars and restaurants.
  • A work-from-home culture. Due to arduous commutes and the predominance of the tech industry, the working from home practice was already more commonplace in California
  • Experience with wildfires and earthquakes. The state government has built up extensive disaster-response machinery and people are accustomed to heeding official orders in a crisis.
  • Lower-density life. The state’s solitary car culture and suburban sprawl are usually seen as liabilities. But in this case, “the more space you have, the less probability there is for transmission,” as in the case of greater density and use of mass transportation in New York. 

Source:  The New York Times



Earth Day at 50

A bit ironic that the 50th celebration of Earth Day occurred when the country is widely shut down for a global event, we did not see coming rather than by the global issues that were not  anticipated.

Little Background

On April 22, 1970, one out of every ten Americans came together to celebrate Earth Day in some fashion. It was in this same year that President Nixon signed a bill creating the EPA (the Environmental Protection Act.

What caused the Earth to get such attention?  Well, it could have been a couple of things most especially the January 1969 oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara that damaged the shoreline and brought to the forefront that there was no federal protection for such disasters.  Of course, in June of that same year people were shocked when the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught on fire due to the oil and chemical mix at the river’s surface.  These were both attention getters.

What Happened as a Result of Earth Day?

Since 1970 six of the most common pollutants have decreased by 70%.  Many of those changes  are due to actions such as the Clean Water Act and actions taken by the EPA

Why hasn’t further progress been made?

There is no one simple response to why greater progress has not been made.  Here are just a few of them:

  • Realization that progress needs to be global
  • The perception that environmental efforts are ‘job killers’
  • The current ability for most people to have clean drinking water and less smog
  • The perception that paddling in lakes, fishing in streams, and hiking on trails are opportunities that have always been available.


Five Decade Reflection

Although it may not seem as if extensive progress has been made.  Take a look at the following and see how much we have forgotten about or some generations don’t even know about due to Earth Day initiatives.  Some of that progress includes the following:

  • From 1970 – 2017 the GDP grew by 262% while emissions fell by 73%.
  • Fifty years ago, cars ran on leaded gasoline.
  • There was no curbside recycling.
  • No California Coastal Commission.
  • Bald eagles, sea otters, brown pelicans and gray whales were headed for extinction in 1970 but they are not currently
  • DDT was sprayed on farm fields
  • Developers were paving hillsides around San Francisco Bay as fast as they could
  • Loggers across Northern California were clear-cutting redwoods with little oversight.
  • South Bay waters were a vast, stinking “dead zone” choked by sewage.
  • Toxic chemical emissions from industry fell 70% from 1988 to 2018 in the United States, and declined 91% in California over the same time period
  • The number of parks and protected open space in the nine-county Bay Area has nearly quadrupled from 340,000 acres in 1969 to 1.2 million acres in 2017 due largely to voter passage of such endeavors.

Source:  The Mercury



The Future of the MegaCities

According to William Frey, Brookings Institution demographer, even before COVID19 hit the decline in the growth of megacities was beginning.  Institution demographer.  Our three largest metro areas, New York, LA, and Chicago all lost populations over the last several years.  Even smaller metro areas such as Houston, Washington, DC, and Miami were growing more slowly than previously. In all the growth in cities has declined by nearly half in the last decade according to Frey’s analysis.

Why?  Skyrocketing rents and changes in the job market may be two factors that originally began pushing young adults to smaller cities and inland from the coast. Now the density of cities and the way in which parks, transportation, and the center of the city have become danger zones will likely increase the tendency. 



The Virus and Its Vices

Not that it takes a crisis to bring out the worst in people, but certainly the mental, emotional, and financial stress of our latest crisis can lead to some less-than-desirable behaviors.

What’s the Big Deal?  The “Big Deal” is that behaviors we take on during the weeks/months of this crisis can likely become habits that we keep long after the stress and threats are over and that’s not a good thing.

Here’s s short list of some of those behavior changes adopted during COVID19:

Substance Abuse

According to Nielsen, an organization long time in the business of tracking consumer behaviors the following has been tallied:

  • alcohol sales were up 55% in the week ending March 21
  • spirits were up 75%
  • wine up 66%
  • beer up 42%.
  • online alcohol sales were up 243%

Marijuana sales where they are legal have reported to be soaring with some providers admitting they were caught unaware and lack merchandise.

Screen Behavior

  • Americans are streaming moreTV than ever before and an increasing number of people are binge-watching three or more episodes from a series at a time
  • Gaming is doing well also. According to Apptopia data, Twitch, Mixer, Caffeine and Discord, all new-age live-stream gaming platforms, had their best revenue-generating month in March
  • Porn consumption is up, according to the website Pornhub. Traffic from the U.S. (Pornhub’s largest market) was up 6.4% on March 17.

Two More Es of the Virus:  Eating and Exercising

  • Americans are eating more and often less healthy as consumers are relying a great deal on non-perishable foods such as pasta and canned goods.
  • CNBC reports that data from fitness trackers indicates that Americans are also exercising less

Source:  AXIOS



Rising Value of Technology

Many adults and especially parents have bemoaned the impact of technology upon their children and yet during the current social distancing use of technology has dramatically increased.  So are the perceptions of many adult as to its value.

Teens, Young Adults and Isolation

For this age group social media may have saved their days.  This group has been using Face Time, Snapchat, Instagram, and Tik Tok for practically their entire lives so they are incredibly accustomed to not necessarily communicating or meeting up with friends in a face to face manner. 

Video Games, Connections, and Potential Value Connections

In the United States, the average video game players put in six hours and 46 minutes each week playing video games.  While there are no current updated usage hours, it is highly likely that gamers are putting more time in on their games.  (USA Today)

Potential Value of Video Games

Greg Toppor who used to write for USA Today and teaches journalism at Northwestern University in Qatar has written a book titled The Game Believes in You.  Toppor admits that parents should watch how their children are using online resources but goes on to identify what he refers to as the “Seven Fs” supporting video games as follows:

Failure.  A game is fun in spite of its difficulty but people (and kids) failing when its’ not part of real life is not nearly as important.

Feedback.  Games provide real-time feedback so players are helped to face the next challenge as compared to schoolwork when feedback is delayed and it mostly summative.

Fairness.  Games reward hard work and skill development and do not differentiate between rick kids and poor kids or any other differences.

Flow.  Psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihayi who identified the concept of “flow” when your  skill and challenge levels are matched as the “optimal experience”.  These types of experiences involve the player in losing all track of time. are so involved in an activity that you lose all track of time.  Please Note:  This is the ultimate for a leisure experience and many park and recreation professionals may be familiar with this concept.

Fantasy.  Games provide aspirational roles such as heroes, villains and even normal adults.  Toppor agrees that schools can be aspirational as well but kids have to stay after school to pursue these aspirations through drama club, the debate team, sports, etc.  Not every student chooses to do so or is able to do so.

Freedom.  Most games present a number of varying decisions and choices thus giving the player the freedom to make decisions and choices that they are often not allowed to make based upon their age and experience.

Fellowship.  Games are inherently social and you can play with actual friends and people you are friendly with only online.  This is quite different from most school settings where social interaction is more limited.

Source:  USA Today



NRPA’s Snap Survey on Status of Parks and Recreation

A special shout out to NRPA (the National Recreation and Park Association) and the ongoing ‘snap surveys’ that have been conducted related to the corona virus.  Among the key findings from a recent survey includes the following:

  • 75 % of park and recreation agencies are keeping all their parks open
  • 92 % of park and recreation agencies are keeping their trail networks open
    • Of those that have them, a majority of agencies also are keeping open their dog parks (58 %) and community gardens (68 %)
  • 96 % of agencies have closed all their indoor facilities
  • 71 % of agencies have closed their playgrounds
  • 68 % of agencies have closed permanent restrooms located at outdoor amenities
  • 79 % of agencies are using signage to enforce the closure of a park and recreation amenity
  • 51 % of agencies are locking gates to preexisting fenced areass
  • 30 % of agencies are wrapping equipment/entries with yellow tape

As far as budgets are concerned, park and recreation agencies report earned revenues (e.g., registration fees, rent from tenants, gym fees) will miss the current quarter (ending March 31) budgets by a median of 20-29 %. The typical agency anticipates that earned revenues will miss next quarter’s (ending June 30) budget by more than half. The most common steps park and recreation agencies have taken to reduce expenses include:

  • 51 % are reducing energy use at facilities
  • 45 % are implementing hiring freezes
  • 40 % are deferring/canceling capital projects
  • 39 % are deferring ongoing maintenance
  • one in five park and recreation agencies have laid off or furloughed staff as a result of COVID-19


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