Simplified: More people got outside during the pandemic, but not all parks programs saw increased participation. Here's a look at how various parks programs performed in 2020 and beyond.

Why it matters

  • The parks department last month released its 2020 annual report, showing a pretty significant variance in attendance from 2019.
  • Outdoor spots like golf courses, bike trails and park shelters saw significant upticks in usage.
  • Many programs and facilities – including pools – closed during the pandemic, leading to a steep drop in numbers in several areas.
  • As programs returned and pools reopened this summer, demand is back, Parks Director Don Kearney said.
"I do think there's been a pent-up demand for programs and activities," Kearney said.

Show me the data

Here's a breakdown of areas that saw increases in 2020:

  • Trail usage saw a 90 percent increase from 2019 to 2020, and numbers through August of this year were still above pre-pandemic levels.
  • Golf rounds were up 15 percent with demand continuing into 2021.
  • Outdoor ice skating rinks saw 30 percent more skaters.
  • Park shelter usage was also up about 17 percent.

And, on the flip side, here are some of the parks department programs and places that saw a decline:

  • The number of weddings in public parks went down 24 percent.
  • Special events in parks dropped 80 percent.
  • The Levitt canceled its 2020 season entirely, and the Municipal Band moved to virtual-only performances with significantly less attendance than in-person the year prior.
  • Other spots with significantly less traffic were: the Great Plains Zoo, the Butterfly House and Aquarium, the Falls Park Visitors Center and the public pools (which also remained closed for the 2020 season).
  • You can find the full details here.

What happens next?

The parks department is looking to replace three city pools over the next five years.

Those upgrades will be funded through a quality of life bond that's also expected to fund renovations and upgrades to the Elmwood Golf Course Clubhouse