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Recreation heavily impacted by COVID but adapts to contribute to community and individual wellbeing

February 04, 2021 20:22 | Deleted user

Like many industries recreation practitioners, organizations and facilities have been substantially impacted by COVID. Facility closures, staff layoffs and adoption of completely new programming models has produced many challenges. From a municipal perspective, it is hard to identify another department impacted as much as recreation and parks departments. 

Through it all the recreation delivery system has shown the ability to safely adapt and continue to bring communities and families together, while continuing to contribute to the wellbeing of Manitobans.

Recreation Manitoba, a provincial organization dedicated to realizing the full the potential of parks and recreation as a major contributor to community and individual wellbeing and vibrancy, conducted an online survey over the last two weeks of March with members, and organizations involved with recreation in Manitoba to see how COVID has impacted them.

What we found was that across the Province COVID has impacted all aspects of organizations from staffing and facilities, to programs, services and events. Financially these impacts are expected to last into the new fiscal year as budgets have been decimated this year with the impacted expected to last into the new fiscal year.

As we move forward it is essential to recognize the critical role that recreation and active living play in supporting the mental and physical health recovery of Manitobans as well as the economic recovery of communities. 

A basic analysis of the data shows

Responses were received from all seven regions in Manitoba. Winnipeg lead the way with 22% of responses, followed by Westman (19%), Central (17%), Interlake (16%), Eastman(15%), Parkland(6%) and Norman(4%).

The sizes of organizations varied, however most are small departments or organizations. 42% of respondents indicated their department/organization/business had 0 to 5 employees, 17% indicated 6 to 15 employees, 19% indicated 16-30 and 22% indicated 31+ employees.

When looking at how staffing was impacted.  We first asked respondent to indicate impact to full time staff.  68% indicated that full time staffing was impacted in some way. These impacts included, full or permanent layoffs (6%) partial or temporary layoffs (34%), redeployment or reassignments (16%) and other (12%).  32% of respondents indicated full time staffing was not impacted.

When we asked how part time and casual staff were impacted in greater numbers by COVID.  Only 21% indicated there was no impact to staffing. 30% indicated partial or temporary layoffs, full or permanent layoffs indicated 19%, 7% were redeployed or reassignment and 13% indicated they hired less part time or casual staff.

COVID has substantially impacted the finances of most to the organizations. 82% of respondents indicated a negative impact to their finances this year with 46% of respondent indicating a substantial negative impact and 36% indicating a moderate negative impact. These impacts are expected to carry over into the next fiscal year with 81% of respondents indicating a substantial or moderate negative impact on their budgets.

Revenue was the single hardest hit aspect of budgets. 83% of respondent indicated revenue had been negatively impacted, with 59% indicating a substantial negative impact for this year with a further 24% indicating is would have a moderate negative impact.  These impacts are once again expected to carry over into the next fiscal year with 73% indicating it will continue to have a negative impact.

We asked what areas have been most significantly impacted by COVID. As expected, due to shutdowns and other restrictions, events were most significantly impacted with 87% of respondents indicating a substantial negative impact and 97% indicating at least a moderate impact.  Facility operations were the next area most negatively impacted with 76% indicating a substantial negative impact and 94% indicating at least a moderate impact. Services were third on the list with 65% of respondent indicating a substantial negative impact. Recreation Manitoba gives credit to the resiliency of recreation practitioners and organizations and their ability to adjust to ever changing conditions for this lower impact.

This is supported by comments we received when we asked respondents for something positive that has come out of the changes with COVID.  Overwhelming we heard that the delivery system was able to adapt and offer more virtual programs and services and being leaders in community building to help combat social isolation. Respondents indicated these virtual programming options allowed them to reach community members who might not otherwise take part in programs due to barriers including finances, travel and equipment.  A number of respondents acknowledged the support of the Safe at Home Grant and the financial assistance provided by the Province of Manitoba to allow them to make the successful transition to virtual programming and new outdoor related programming. One respondent had this to say "although this time has been difficult it has really taught us how to find a new normal and implement these simple things into our future programming" 

Recreation Manitoba asked how can we help and here is what you told us

"Education/Learning Webinars"

"Ensure you are being our voice and advocating for our sector. Keeping your members informed of possible changes and speak up for us"

"I think keeping us informed with steps going forward.. most of us are one person department working for a board, and we get overwhelmed with all the info or how to keep up. so support, guidance going forward is awesome" 

"Messaging to council about the impacts of recreation" 

"Assist with clarifying regulations especially around facility use/summer camps. Sharing education such as training volunteers for cleaning or sanitizing. "

"I would like to see Recreation Manitoba try get into the details of the provincial restrictions and ask those questions about the grey areas so each of us does not have to search out our local health inspector and get answers that conflict from one person to the next that cause confusion as it current operations." 


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