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June 2015 Parks and Recreation ezine

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Water Water Everywhere

2012-06-01, Department, by Bill Beckner

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) database can shed some light on water access and recreation.

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.

While waterpark use (24.2 percent of departments operate water parks) has probably affected the overall visitation to the natural water resources, it does not seem to have had a negative effect on the value of the facilities or public interest in water recreation. As overall water quality improves, many communities are still enjoying their water resources and the health, economic, employment and recreational benefits.

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