Seattle Parks and Recreation Strategic Plan

Since the publication of the Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) Parks Legacy Plan in September 2014, Seattle has transformed. Seattle's population has grown by more than 60,000 people, our transit system has expanded, our economy has grown and shifted, and our residents are grappling with challenges around affordability, livability, climate change, and more. 

Given these changes, in 2018 SPR determined that it was time to get together with community and partners and have a holistic discussion about where we've been and where we are going. Through this strategic planning process, SPR sought community input to reflect on our challenges, our successes, who we are serving, and who we are missing. These conversations were focused on thinking big about what our city might need in the next 12-13 years and how to establish a strategic direction that drives SPR's work toward meeting those needs.

SPR is proud to present the outcome of this more than two-year planning effort: 

Healthy People, Healthy Environment, Strong Communities: A Strategic Plan for Seattle Parks and Recreation, 2020-2032.  

What's In The Plan 

To guide our work from 2020-2032, the Strategic Plan is organized into the following sections: 

  • Why Plan Now & Planning Foundations: Makes the case for how much Seattle has changed since our 2014 Parks Legacy Plan and identifies our approach to this planning process. 
  • Pathway to Equity: States our departmentwide commitment to dismantling systemic racism and achieving racial equity. 
  • What We Offer: Showcases a snapshot of the services, programs, and spaces we offer to the Seattle community. 
  • Where We're Going: Identifies a citywide vision, SPR's specific levers of change, connection to the Pathway to Equity, and strategies aligned with each of the three pillars of our vision (Healthy People, Healthy Environment, Strong Communities) and a fourth category supporting all three (Organizational Excellence).  
  • Appendix I: Shares additional context informing our work, including our history of continuous planning, a compilation of our services, programs, and spaces, and a summary of public engagement methods and outcomes supporting the development of this plan. 

SPR has also compiled a separate Appendix II, which includes: 

  • Additional resources about the City's Race and Social Justice Initiative, and SPR's Pathway to Equity; and  
  • All feedback received throughout the Strategic Plan public engagement process, including comments shared at citywide and community events, poll results, comments shared via social media platforms, emails received, and survey results.  

Strategic Plan Outreach

The spring and summer of 2019 marked the launch of a comprehensive outreach and engagement strategy to solicit feedback from the community about their big ideas for the future of Seattle Parks and Recreation. As we looked to the future, we wanted to know how parks and recreation users engage with the system and what opportunities there are to innovate, to solve tough problems, and to think big! Through this outreach effort, we asked people... 

  • How are Seattle parks, centers, and pools serving you, your family, and your neighbors? 
  • What park amenities really excite you? 
  • What park events and community center programs interest you? 
  • Seattle's got a lot on its plate (booming economy, ambitious transportation plans, increasing population, affordability challenges, homelessness, and more). How can Parks and Recreation help? 

This outreach effort involved several key components: 

  • Citywide and community events: SPR hosted two city-wide community events (Parks and Rec Fest) that gathered neighbors and friends to learn about our parks and recreation system, as well as our commitment to healthy people, a healthy environment, and strong communities. These events were a chance to connect with and learn about SPR services and help create a vision for the future. SPR staff also conducted outreach at over 20 community events all over the city throughout the summer.  
  • Listening tour: SPR staff attended over 20 meetings held by community groups and partner institutions, engaging in dialogue to understand these groups' priorities and interests.
  • Digital Engagement: SPR held a comprehensive social media campaign with mini-surveys, photo contests with prizes, free response questions, a short video, and more. Several posts were translated into the City's top seven languages. SPR also reached people via SPR's newsletter and set up a dedicated email address to collect feedback.  
  • Surveys: Finally, SPR conducted a range of surveys to gather input, including a statistically significant Citywide survey in English and Spanish, topic-specific surveys advertised at each community center, and a subset of the Citywide survey offered in up to 12 languages at community events.

In total, over 10,000 people provided input through this process. All this feedback is catalogued in Appendix II to the Strategic Plan, and the themes from this input were used in the development of outcomes and strategies outlined in the Strategic Plan.   

Engagement done well does not have a starting and stopping point; it is ongoing. SPR will continue the conversations held throughout this process to inform our work in the future, relying on our established relationships and existing data to help shape how we implement this Strategic Plan. 


Planning is ongoing at Seattle Parks and Recreation. Planning for capital projects is underway year-round, and those meetings center on design and site issues such as ADA access. In recent years, SPR has planned for projects including play areas, community centers, and athletic fields. SPR also develops long-range plans that ask questions such as how much parkland is needed for Seattle's population, what types of recreation facilities are needed, and what projects are a high priority for funding. As a result of long-range planning efforts, SPR has achieved many accomplishments in the recent past, including: 

  • Replaced Rainier Community Center and Pool 
  • Eliminated drop-in fees at all community centers during operating hours 
  • Increased summer activity camp program access with scholarships in central and southeast Seattle  
  • Provided over 4,000 scholarships for licensed childcare programs, recreational programming, and donations 
  • Offered programs for all ages 
  • Added fiber to 38 Parks and Recreation locations for WiFi connections 
  • Added two new software systems for class registration and asset management/work orders 
  • Hosted the "Big Day of Play" community event every summer 
  • Improved our ADA access to SPR facilities and programs 
  • Reduced the backlog of major maintenance needs by completing projects that included renovated and/or replaced park comfort stations, play areas, and converted athletic fields to synthetic turf for year-round play 
  • Increased opportunities for gardening and healthy food education by developing Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Beacon Food Forest 
  • Developing 14 new parks throughout the City

Previous Plans

SPR has conducted numerous plans over the past five years, each of which included outreach to park and recreation users and generated recommendations, goals, and policies that informed this planning effort. Some of the major plans and evaluations conducted since 2014 include: 

2014: Parks Legacy Plan

2016: Community Center Strategic Plan

2016: Recreation Demand Study

2017: People, Dogs & Parks Plan

2017: Parks and Open Space Plan

2017: Soft Surface Trails Management Plan 

2018: City of Seattle Legislative Department Recreation Division Evaluation