Public opinion is extremely important to guide local governments in the parks and recreation master planning process. There is no right or wrong way to analyze parks and recreation needs and preferences. Local governments should consider using a variety of “best practice” methods to ensure that information is gathered from a representative cross-section of local government stakeholders.
Review previous plans and studies – Past studies, and those conducted by outside organizations should be to guide local government parks and recreation master planning. Local governments should review information within the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), which is a planning and policy document that identifies needs in outdoor recreation throughout the state of Delaware. Prepared by DNREC, the SCORP is used to guide parks and recreation funding investment of funding for outdoor recreation based on the assessment on needs and preferences. Delaware’s SCORP is developed with input through a public telephone survey of Delawareans, and consultations with organizations and experts that are committed to quality outdoor experiences, healthy lifestyles, tourism and child advocacy. Local leaders may also wish to review a Nemours Health and Prevention Services (NHPS) a policy brief policy brief, Investment in Parks and Recreation is Necessary for Children’s Health, which identifies summarizes the SCORP and highlights the health benefits of outdoor recreation.
Assess Community Needs – Municipalities can also conduct their own research about local residents’ parks and recreation needs and preferences. This process can occur during scheduled workshops, public meetings, surveys, and stakeholder interviews, as well as digital engagement through social media and websites. In addition, the information gathering step will provide a technical assessment, identify existing deficiencies, and gauge existing use and demand for current municipal parks and recreation facilities.
Needs Analysis – A needs analysis should be conducted to provide a formal assessment of parks and recreation program and facility needs of the community. Local governments may wish to use needs analysis methods that have been sanctioned by national organizations. A preliminary level of service (LOS) assessment of facilities, based on the standards developed by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), has been the traditional method used by most parks and recreation departments to analyze needs.
Since 2001, a revised methodology called composite-values LOS analysis or GRASP® (Geo-Referenced Amenities Standards Program) has been widely adopted. This method assesses the extent to which the location and conditions of facilities meets the needs and expectations of its residents and also takes into consideration other factors — such as convenience, ambience, and comfort. All are combined into a numerical index, displayed graphically on maps, and to determine the equity and deficiencies of the system as a whole, as well as of its individual parts.
The USDA Forest Service has established a Recreational Opportunity Spectrum that provides a framework, which may be used by parks and recreation professionals, to inventory recreational resources, estimate the consequences of management decisions, and to match experiences desired by recreationists with available opportunities.