Address Changing Demographics

Plan for Culturally Relevant Parks and Trails to Meet Changing Demographics

Population Changes 2010 to 2040

Washington’s population is expected to grow by 2 million people by 2040[1] leading to more congestion and competition for recreation resources. The increase in population is expected to be mostly from people moving into the state, which is often the result of the attractiveness of Washington as a place to live.

Coupled with the increase in population is an increase in diversity, between 2010 and 2040, the percent of people of color are expected to increase from 27 percent to 44 percent of the total population [2]  As of 2016, the percent of people of color in Washington was estimated at 30 percent of the total population. [3]  With the cultural change in the population , preferred recreational activities will also change.

In addition, the population is aging. By 2030, more than one of every five Washingtonians will be 65 years old or older. By 2040, there will be more seniors than youth. This age group is becoming increasingly fit and they will seek different recreational experiences.[4]

For more information on demographics of the state, see the Research and Findings page.

It is a challenge for providers of outdoor recreation to identify the diverse types of activities that may evolve with the change in demographics, particularly as the population changes quickly.  Recreation providers must try to anticipate and plan for changing needs based on demographics. For example, recreation activities were added to the 2017 general population survey to identify whether certain activities were of more interest to different populations.  Examples include going to a park for family gatherings, relaxing and hanging out, and outdoor table tennis. See the charts below in the first recommendation that show participation rates of recreation activities by race and ethnicity. This type of data is a first step in understanding state demographic changes as it relates to outdoor recreation needs.

The Recreation and Conservation Funding Board’s Unifying Strategy will address changing demographics in its work by implementing the recommendations in this priority through the following actions:

  • Providing funds to Build, Renovate, and Maintain Parks and Trails for culturally diverse forms of outdoor recreation,
  • Committing to Maintain and Improve the Mapped Inventory of outdoor recreation and conservation land and facilities to know where there are gaps in the parks, trails and conservation land system,
  • Striving to Distribute Funds Equitably Across the State to diverse communities, and
  • Improve Program Outreach and Access to reach new partners.

Partners can also help address changing demographics by including the following recommendations in their work.

Create new and diverse opportunities

To keep pace with a growing and more diverse population, recreation providers will need to provide new opportunities to maintain residents’ satisfaction. In addition, those new opportunities require a wider spectrum of recreational activities that reflect the diversity of cultural and social values reflected in the population. Providing new opportunities will need to be balanced with the on-going need to maintain existing recreation opportunities as discussed in the priority to Sustain Our Legacy.

To identify culturally relevant recreation activities, providers can reach out to different communities before initiating new efforts. Traditional communication methods, such as community meetings and open houses typically will not engage a racially and ethnically diverse population. Providers will need to make new connections through community and faith based organizations, businesses, and cultural leaders to reach a more diverse population.

The chart below shows the participation rates of recreation activities by race and ethnicity. It shows that not all Washingtonians participate in the same outdoor recreation activities at the same rate. Culture, along with other factors, may help explain the differences.  For example, the Hispanic population is more likely to go running, play soccer, or go to a park for leisure activities like family gatherings, picnicking, or attending an outdoor event. The white population is more likely to go to motorboating or do nature-based activities such as visiting a river or beach. Asians are more likely to use technology-based games, visit a zoo, or play tennis. African Americans have a higher participation in obstacle course races, playing basketball and yard games like horseshoes. [5]

Kiwanis Methow

The City of Wenatchee, in partnership with the Trust for Public Lands, is renovating Kiwanis Methow Park to meet the recreation needs of the Hispanic community.

Accommodate the Active Senior Population

The increase in the active senior population will bring changes as well as demand for activities that seniors enjoy increases. Recreation providers can adapt park design and program more senior-friendly open spaces to fulfill unmet needs. Creating space and opportunities for elders promotes health and reduces social isolation.[6] Examples of senior friendly outdoor recreation activities are accessible walking trails, outdoor exercise equipment stations, senior sport zones, and outdoor exercise classes such as yoga and tai chi.

The chart below shows the types of outdoor recreation activities of people 65 and older. In general, seniors are most interested in walking and hiking, sightseeing, and nature-based activities.

[1] Washington State Office of Financial Management, Forecast of the State Population, November 2016 Forecast 2017

[2] Grossman, J. Expanding the Palette: As America’s population become more diverse, will its changes be reflected in park visitors? National Parks Conservation Association, Summer, 2010.

[3] Washington State Office of Financial Management, Projections of the State Population by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin 2010-2040

[4] Fox, J. Washington State Population Trends and Implications for Outdoor Recreation 2014

[5] Fox, J. Washington State Population Trends and Implications for Outdoor Recreation 2014

[6] UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, Placemaking for an Aging Population 2014

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