Health and Fitness Column

N.C. ranks 43rd in parks and recreation

By John Taylor | Jul 09, 2013
Photo by: File The Mountaineer's Health & Fitness Columnist John Taylor.

According to the latest government report regarding spending on parks and recreation departments, the state of North Carolina finished a disappointing 43rd.
The report, which was generated by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, ranked states based on the total amount of state dollars dedicated to parks and recreation, the total federal dollars awarded, the number of grant dollars awarded, parks and recreation spending per square mile, fundraising dollars generated, listing gains and expenditures on websites for public viewing, and obtaining funds generated from economic development.
Topping the 2013 list was Texas, who received high marks for local and state tax dollars assigned to parks and recreation departments, and for receiving a high number of federal grants to maintain facilities and outdoor amenities.
States ranking in the top 10 behind Texas were Massachusetts, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah and Nebraska.
North Carolina received a lower ranking due to smaller municipalities throughout the state spending less per capita on parks and recreation services compared to larger cities such as Charlotte and Raleigh, and many parks departments lacking a comprehensive economic development plan to generate revenue.
However, the Tar Heel state did receive high marks for the number of federal grants they received to help fund its national parks.
States ranking below North Carolina were Montana, Rhode Island, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Hawaii and California. North Dakota came in at 50th place in these rankings.
Though North Carolina obviously has room for improvement, does anyone really feel like our parks and recreation centers are severely lacking? I love knowing that I am just a short car ride away from hiking John’s Rock and Looking Glass in the Pisgah National Forest, or have the option of doing some rock climbing near Banner Elk.
I also love the number of disc golf courses that I can play in the Asheville-area, and think the parks and recreation fitness centers in Haywood and Jackson counties provide an excellent workout opportunity for all age groups.
I can only compare the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Departments to the other states I’ve lived in, and despite their low ranking, I think the Tar Heel state offers comparable services to Washington State (No. 14), New Jersey (No. 32), and Kansas (No. 36). After all, do these states offer its citizens the Land of Waterfalls in Transylvania County, the rafting and kayaking opportunities through Western North Carolina, Grandfather Mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Chimney Rock in Lake Lure, the beaches on the outer banks, or a view of the Great Smokies?
No. 43? Really? I can’t say this with any certainty, but isn’t it a little absurd that states like New Mexico, Iowa, and Nevada all rank ahead of North Carolina? Somehow, I think this report is flawed.