Options for Improving Parks & Recreation Services in Greater Racine

November 2019


Nearly every sphere of American life has undergone a fundamental transformation during the previous half century. The “big box” retail revolution typified by Walmart has been transformed by Amazon and has fundamentally changed how goods and services are sourced and sold; reliable birth control, shifting social mores, and technology have transformed the workplace and family life; the Internet has made communication instant and spawned amazing new products and services.

Yet the structure of local government remains largely unchanged from its origins in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many metropolitan areas are balkanized by local zoning and planning powers, with socioeconomic differences literally cast in concrete and communities divided by asphalt.

Change is possible, however. Under the premise that Greater Racine’s local governments would be better off working together than individually to address Foxconn-related and other growing service delivery challenges, members of the Resilient Communities Roundtable, comprised of the region’s top elected leaders and administrators, commissioned the Wisconsin Policy Forum to conduct a high-level scan of municipal services in the region that would identify which were most conducive to enhanced sharing or consolidation. That 2018 report – Building Bridges: A scan of service sharing opportunities in Greater Racine – identified three such service areas: fire and emergency medical services (EMS), parks and recreation, and public health.

This report represents a next step in the inquiry into the potential benefits associated with intergovernmental cooperation in Greater Racine by providing a detailed analysis of the potential for enhanced sharing or consolidation of parks and recreation services in the region. Commissioned again by the Resilient Communities Roundtable, this report explores the current state of the existing municipal parks and recreation functions in the region’s four largest municipalities (as well as in Racine County government) and opportunities for improvement through greater collaboration. The Johnson Foundation, which convenes and facilitates Resilient Communities Roundtable discussions, provided partial underwriting for this study.

Related Research