trendSCAN - February 2020

trendSCAN February 2020


In this version:

  • Did You Know?
  • Signs of the Times
  • Signs of the Times
  • Less Time Outdoors
  • 2020:  Social Media’s Tipping Point
  • Addressing Disparities in Parks and Open Space
  • Park in a Truck
  • Emerging/Evolving Models
  • Restorative Care Units in LA County
  • Kindergarten in a Bus
  • Class Pass
  • The Personal Data Guzzle
  • Reframing Parks and Recreation
  • Takeaways


Reframing Parks and Recreation

The creative and necessary ways in which products, services, and organizations are reframing, reinventing, re-engineering themselves as featured in the ongoing Emerging/Evolving Models. Is parks and recreation in need of a reframing or reinventing?

Certainly ‘Park in a Truck’ as practiced in Philadelphia, PA could serve as an inspiration for creating badly needed spaces so people can access green and open space. The underlying shift is not just equipment in the park but the way in which professionals join with neighbors to determine needs and act upon them. Before we think of all the reasons that it can’t or shouldn’t be done, let’s think of the excitement and benefits around these types of projects.

The Aspen Institute Project Play is a multi-year effort to bring sports to more youth as a way to build healthier communities. The project has a myriad of resources for parents, coaches, and leaders in various fields. We are or could play a leading role in this approach. Their tag line is Sport for All, Play for Life. Applications for their Project Play Champion is open now to a number of potential providers with community recreation leading the list. Deadline for this submittal is 3/31/2020 but resources are a click away.



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.

Access for People.  Review your fees and charges for various programs, parks, and services and take a serious look at the people who may not be able to access these opportunities.  The widely accepted stat that most American families can’t afford a $400 emergency should reinforce the message.Access for People.  Review your fees and charges for various programs, parks, and services and take a serious look at the people who may not be able to access these opportunities.  The widely accepted stat that most American families can’t afford a $400 emergency should reinforce the message.

Getting People Out of the House.  Can the augmented reality such as the approach used by the state parks in Colorado serve as the impetus for getting people out of their homes that are increasingly becoming more filled with entertainment and fun not to mention how comfortable it can be.  Can we use even simple YouTube videos that have our “influencers”(participants in our spaces) encouraging others to join them. 

How about…

  • Creating your own version of ClassPass
  • Offering drop-in fitness for non-class participants at no charge
  • Develop a package of your own version of Mobile Recreation and take it out to neighborhood gathering spots
  • Offer ‘recreational teams’ for youth if you don’t already as not everybody plays travel sports
  • What about a pickup game at a local park.  Announce the time and location and play with whomever shows


Did You Know?

Boy Scouts File for Bankruptcy. The Boy Scouts have filed Chapter 11 for bankruptcy protection a move made in part due to declining membership and sexual abuse allegations especially the $19.9 million lawsuit awarded to individual in 2010 (USA Today)

10,000 Cities Now. There are now 10,000 Cities on Planet Earth. Half of those cities didn’t exist 40 years ago. (World Urban Forum 10)

More Plastic than Fish. According to a prediction by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the seas will contain more plastic than fish by 2050 at current trend levels.

Current Financial Challenges. Forty 5 (40%) of Americans would struggle to come up with $400 for an unexpected expense or emergency (CNBC).

Younger Generations and Housing Fears. New survey from Bank of America reveals that millennials report that not being able to afford a home is a serious stressor for them. Younger generations prioritize homeownership even more; 41% of Gen Z and 40% of younger millennials are saving to buy a home. Debt is a big hurdle. Excluding home loans, 16% of millennials owe $50,000 or more; 42% say debt is keeping them from buying a first or nicer home. (Axios)

Generations Swayed by Influencers. An August 2019 survey from GlobalWebIndex shows that roughly one in five of Gen Z and millennial respondents from the US and UK made a purchase inspired by an influencer or celebrity post on social media. (emarketer)

Concussion Rate Up. The NFL has reported slightly more concussions this year and a drop from the previous season. According to their injury data recently released players suffered 224 concussions during the regular season and the preseason.

Digital Poverty. In 2018, more than 18 million American households lived without a broadband subscription. Today’s digital economy is out of reach for far too many people. The digital gap between urban and rural parts of the country is well recognized but analysis of the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) data finds that the majority of digitally disconnected households live in metropolitan areas, and the gaps are especially large when comparing neighborhoods within the same place. (Brookings)

Personal Debt Biggest Ever. According to the New York Fed, personal debt has increased $600 billion in the last year and now reaches $14 trillion for the first time. (Axios)


Signs of the Times

Augmented Reality for Parks. Ten Colorado State Parks are now using an augmented reality approach to engage and inform would be visitors. The app is called Agents of Discovery. (NRPA Smarts Brief)

Yes, You Can Play Piano. Reportedly, seven out of ten adults want to learn to play a musical instrument but believe it to be too expensive and inconvenient. Enter Youscian, a Helsinki start up that provides realistic lessons with real time feedback (Fast Company)

Office of Communication and Public Engagement. Summit County, UT has created an office of Communication and Public Engagement in order to better reach non-English speaking residents and inform them of county services. (NRPA Smart Brief)

Olympic Advantage of Vaporfly. World Athletics, the international governing body for track and field have approved use of the controversial Nike Vaporfly shoes for Olympic athletes in Tokyo. The shoe reportedly increase running efficiency by 4 – 5 % (New World Same Humans)


Less Time Outdoors

Americans are spending less time outdoors, according to a 2019 Outdoor Foundation study released on January 29. Hard to believe?

  • Nearly half of the U.S. population doesn’t participate in any outdoor recreation at all
  • Only 17.9% got out at least once a week in 2018

This results in one billion fewer hikes, climbs, rides, and other outdoor excursions in 2018 than in 2008. Even kids are staying inside. Children took part in 15 5 fewer outdoor activities in 2018 than they did six years before.

What seems to be the problem?

Suggestions from the study identify the following as barriers:

  • work
  • technology
  • cost of entry

There is some good news

  • Outdoor participation among women ages 18 to 24 increased by an average of 3.3% in the last three years
  • adolescent girls ages 6 to 12 had the highest rate of participation in their gender group at about 60 %
  • Caucasians consistently represented the majority (almost three-quarters in 2018) of outdoor recreationists
  • Hispanic participation nearly doubled over the past ten years, from 5.3 % to 10.3 %.
  • Ethnic and socio-economics remains a problem in the outdoor industry: overall, non-white groups went on fewer outings in 2018 than they did five years ago.
  • Additionally, the majority of outdoor participants (63.5 %) were college educated, and nearly half earned household incomes of at least $75,000. 
  • Most Americans (63 %) play outside within 10 miles of home


2020:  Social Media’s Tipping Point 

This year is likely the last one ever in which you can say that more than half the planet is not on social media.  Hootsuite just released a massive digital state of the union report. Some of the findings:

  • 5.2 billion of people globally now have phones
  • 4.5 billion are connected to the internet
  • 3.8 billion are active social media users

That 3.8 billion is 49% of the planet’s population, and it grew 9% over the past year. active social media users grew by 321 million people: 9.2%.  So we will likely surpass the half way point soon.

On the social front, social media use is outpacing population growth almost nine to one.

Where are the 49% of these users going? How the world clicks?

  • Facebook, the largest social platform on the planet, has 2.4 billion monthly active users
  • YouTube, generally considered a social network even with its focus on music and video and has 2 billion monthly active users
  • WhatsApp owned by Facebook has 1.6 billion users
  • Facebook Messenger has 1.3 billion monthly active users
  • China’s WeChat follows with 1.1 billion, and Instagram rounds out the billion-user club.

An Interesting Aside: twice as many people use Twitter as actually log into it so the site has a much bigger audience than reported. 

Social platforms differ from one another and each platform attracts different people for different reasons. 

  • Facebook: the audience that knows you
  • Instagram: the Hollywood of social media
  • Twitter: where you find what’s happening now
  • LinkedIn: the place for professional sharing, plus a resume
  • Snapchat: people connecting with my very close friends
  • YouTube: the entertainment center
Source:  John Koetsier for Forbes


Addressing Disparities in Parks and Open Space

It comes as no surprise that research findings and statistics indicate that residents with lower incomes are less likely to find green space nearby in their neighborhoods in several major U.S. metro areas. 

Thankfully, equity and access have been increasing concerns expressed in some parts of the country particularly in American cities. The Urban Institute and the City Park Alliance joined forces recently to study this issue.  This initial report released by the City Park Alliance showcases efforts to address this critical issue.  The report includes findings from San Francisco, Los Angeles County, Pittsburg, Philadelphia, New York City, Minneapolis, and Detroit.  American cities have started addressing long-standing disparities in access to parks and green space.

New research from this report from cities involved emphasize the following recommendations and observations.

  • The recommendations from these efforts include getting leaders from one or more sectors of the city to champion, explain the need for and work toward better equity in parks funding. In some of the cities featured in the report, it was the city’s parks and recreation department that led the effort, but in others, it was the mayor or nonprofit sectors that played a role.  All the cities did it differently.
  • Another recommendation of the report is to define equity goals and collect data in transparent and consistent ways to reach those goals. Otherwise, it’s hard to know systematically if your city is making progress and where the gaps remain. The cities’ data-driven approaches also help leaders and residents understand the scope of the benefits coming from their city’s attention to the issue.
  • Educating and engaging the community on the equity data collected. Catherine Nagel, executive director of the City Park Alliance says the different strategies implemented in the cities included in the report are “replicable for cities of all sizes.” The report is full of ideas and examples that other city leaders can borrow from and adopt to ensure more of their residents have the option of spending time soaking up the many health and social benefits of parks.  

One example: New York City’s efforts to improve equity in parks funding notes that the city’s parks department partnered with the CUNY School of Public Health (part of the city’s public higher education system) to examine the effects of the new park reconstruction initiatives on community health metrics, such as physical activity, park usership and social cohesion. This study is already underway, with preparations to engage thousands of New Yorkers over the next couple of years, and the results are expected to be ready in 2022. 

Matthew Eldridge, lead researcher with Urban Institute, indicated that “Places are thinking of funding in terms of where it’s coming from, what it’s being used for, how it’s being distributed, and what impacts it’s having on communities. In many cities, and especially in ones with limited resources, addressing the park equity gap from a funding perspective requires creative thinking about the roles of parks, engagement of communities in planning and decision making, and the leveraging of new data and partnerships.”

Three additional strategies and recommendations included in this report

  1. New sources of funding: Philanthropies are increasingly supporting the development of parks such as the Gathering Place in Tulsa, OK funded by the George Kaiser Family Foundation and driving conversations on equity through the William Penn Foundation’s work in Philadelphia to advance equity in the allocation of resources and understand the impacts of those investments on residents in that city.
  2. Reallocation of funding: Proposition K in Los Angeles created a citywide property tax assessment district that generates funding for youth infrastructure including parks and recreation facilities and aims to help address inequities in access to these services.
  3. New partnerships leveraging the benefits of parks: The Red Rock Trail System in Greater Birmingham, Alabama, leveraged funds from the Jefferson County Department of Health, federal transportation grants, and community resources to build a 100-mile trail network connecting high- and low-income communities to jobs, recreational opportunities, and each other.

A second phase of the research and knowledge-sharing will continue through spring of 2020 with additional products including a review of park equity frameworks from several major park systems and a practical guide on how local conditions shape and inform funding and park equity.

More updates will be released as the project continues.

Source:  City Park Alliance


Park in a Truck

Professionals in the field clearly recognize that creating new parks in most communities is an incredibly slow process, often expensive, and usually fairly time-consuming. Make way for Park in a Truck.

This new approach is a Parks and Recreation Ultimate Emerging and Evolving example as it lets neighbors quickly pick which elements they want in a park, deliver those elements, and assist the residents in installing those elements over a few Saturdays.

The most visible and viable example is a corner block in West Philadelphia, PA. This corner sat unused for 20 years until Park in a Truck came along. Kim Douglas, a landscape architect at Thomas Jefferson University, tried to work with the over 43,000 vacant lots for years and always encountered challenges.

Douglas continued to address this challenge and along with Drew Harris, a population health professor at Thomas Jefferson University as they designed a way to speed up the process by helping communities build parks themselves. The elements within this kit are easy to install so they can be built without any specialized expertise. The various pieces of the park to be selected by the neighborhood can be interchangeable, so you could pick from column A, column B, or column C, and they all work together, but you get different components,” according to Douglas.

Other common factors of the kit are methods to avoid excavation and complex construction; install benches and tables that are connected so they won’t be stolen but are not installed in the ground. Native trees and plans are obtained from local nurseries.

When Douglas and Harris first shared this idea in 2018, a developer reached out and offered a 2,400-square-foot lot next to what will become a new building with low-income housing and a community center in a West Philadelphia neighborhood called Mantua. Along came a nonprofit called the Greenfield Foundation offered to fund the first park. Working with residents who are the designers, the neighborhood which already had playgrounds build a place for older adults to relax including tables for playing chess, trees for shade, and benches designed to make it easy for elderly people to stand up. It was also designed to support local wildlife and to absorb stormwater in heavy rains.

The park kits costs between $10 and $12 a square foot and don’t necessarily require permits. The developers claim that in an ongoing series of six Saturday mornings, the park can come to life.
Additional Insight from Douglas:

Philadelphia has a relatively high “ParkScore,” according to the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, which ranks cities based in part on how easily residents can get to a park: 95% of residents live within a 10-minute walk. Douglas disagrees that’s not close enough.

Multiple studies have quantified the benefits of living next to green space. Living near parks can reduce stress and make people happier. Kids that grow up near greenery are less likely to suffer from mental illness as adults. As trees absorb pollution, they help reduce the risk of asthma. The more trees on a block means less diabetes or heart disease. Spending time outside in green spaces also helps reduce symptoms of ADHD in children. “I think that having access to these types of spaces would help kids in school, and then it would help break that cycle of poverty,” Douglas says. Philadelphia’s poverty rate is 25.7%, higher than other large cities in the U.S.

Sources: ( and


Emerging/Evolving Models

Restorative Care Units in LA County

A Bit of Background

The Los Angeles County General Hospital was hailed a state-of-the-art institution when it opened during the Great Depression. The 19-story Art Deco structure started as a trauma teaching hospital before becoming one of the busiest public hospitals in the western United States. The inscription over the front door still reads: “The doctors of the attending staff give their services without charge in order that no citizens of the county shall be deprived of health or life for lack of such care and services.”

  • Problems in the ‘70s over Chicano protesting involuntary sterilization and the ‘80s with the push to better serve HIV and Aids left the hospital a shell of its former self
  • The concept for a “village inside a hospital facility” emerged after unsuccessful attempts by the county to build “enhanced neighborhood model treatment centers” in residential neighborhoods.  Not something residents wanted in their neighborhoods.

Enter LA County and its 180-degree change for the facility, Restorative Care Villages, on the LA County General Hospital campus.  Villages across four medical sites are set to open across the county by the end of 2021. At the Los Angeles County General Hospital campus now known as the LAC+USC campus, the Restorative Care Village is the first phase of a larger “Healthy Village” envisioned by County Supervisor Hilda Solis.  Way to go Supervisor Solis.  These “villages” are designed to provide residents with a full continuum of services including recuperative care, supportive housing, a rest and recovery center, psychiatric services, education, training, employment and recreational and social amenities.

(Source:  Next City)

Pre-Kindergarten in a Bus

What do you do in rural America where there are hundreds of children who can’t attend pre-K? It’s actually a big deal since pre-K is reported to have many advantages for children who start kindergarten with a sense of security and knowledge base. In rural Appalachia, this is the case for many families due to geographic isolation and lack of broadband. Enter Brea’s College’s Partners for Education who managed to convert two school buses into preschool classrooms.

These buses come to driveways in this area with no charge to the families and prepare 3 and 4-year olds for the books, letters, and numbers awaiting them in kindergarten.

Source: Sarasota Herald Tribune


Just when you likely thought that competition in fitness couldn’t change even more, it is time to recognize “ClassPass”.

ClassPass is a New York City based company that allows users to purchase credits to use at participating fitness centers around the world. Reportedly, there are thousands of fitness facilities who accept ClassPass. For a monthly purchase of $49 which results in 27 credits, the user can participate in approximately six to eight workouts a month. The benefit for the ClassPass holder is that they are not locked into one location or one type of fitness activity as they can choose from dance, yoga, Zumba, whatever.

Since being founded in 2010, ClassPass has grown to 30,000 studios in 2,500 cities and five continents.



The Personal Data Guzzle 

Axios’ Erica Pandey writes that “while much of the debate around data privacy has centered on the tech giants that are collecting consumer data shares that but retailers are formidable data guzzlers too.  She indicates that the places we shop track us both in stores and online gathering data that will encourage us to spend more money.

Consider the following:

  • Amazon has been invited into our homes with smart speakers and doorbells so they know what we want to purchase
  • Walmart is piloting a grocery delivery service where they send an associate into your home to stock your refrigerator
  • There is currently a myriad of start-up companies that are counting on infusing even more data and tech into shopping.

Source:  Axios


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