Parks and Recreation Districts

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GENERAL PARKS AND RECREATION DISTRICTS The use of special districts to administer parks and recreation services originates from a successful experiment by New York City in SSSS. The city created a commission to depoliticize the provision of parks and recreation services, which led to the development of Central Park. Following this model of success, a number of states now have some form of park district that span a range of services, including open space protection, land conservation, environmental education, and leisure activities. Local governments increasingly offload parks and recreation responsibilities to special districts because they require large capital investments and they benefit from district boundaries drawn according to public use. The impact of tax limitations and pressure on general funds also encourages development of park districts. Flickinger and Murphy () provide insight from a park director in Illinois who believes special taxing status is essential because park and recreation departments tend “to take a back seat to streets, police, fire, utilities, and other ‘mandatory’ services when time came to set or cut budgets and hire qualified personnel” (1990, p. 153).Though parks and recreation are a common form of district, research evaluating its success is limited in both quantity and scope. The vast majority of research on parks and recreation districts is concentrated in the Midwest where they are most prevalent. The Illinois Park and Recreation
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