Promoting Physical Activity Through the Shared Use of School and Community Recreational Resources

Shared use of school and community recreational facilities—gymnasiums, playgrounds, sports fields, courts, track and other facilities—are a cost-effective way to promote physical activity in a community.

This issue brief summarizes research on the topic, and describes the challenges in shared use and the opportunities for local and state policy-makers.

Research shows that lower-income communities have less access to parks and other recreation opportunities than higher-income ones. Progress toward opening school facilities for recreation outside school hours is slow, especially in lower-income communities.

Policy-makers should consider joint use agreements as a way to address the following perceived barriers to sharing physical activity facilities:

  • Liability—Use joint use agreements to reduce risk and associated costs.
  • Maintenance—Help schools and their partners establish mutually agreed responsibility for facility maintenance and repair.
  • Vandalism, crime and other safety issues—Consider proactive safety and crime prevention measures such as security cameras, warnings, emergency telephones and security personnel.
  • Scheduling—Give the school priority over community use when their recreational facilities are shared.
  • Costs—Share costs of equipment, supplies, water, electricity, maintenance and staffing.

State policy-makers might also consider legislative action to address liability issues, where necessary.