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As important venues for physical activity, public parks contribute to the health and well-being of the communities that surround them. It is therefore in the best interests of park administrators to have a method to measure this contribution. This paper introduces the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC), a reliable, valid, and easy-to-use tool for quantifying park use and park-based physical activity. Park administrators should understand how to use SOPARC to collect data that justify expenditures in parks and recreation departments. To that end, this paper lays out in some detail what SOPARC is and how it is used, as well as provides background information on the importance of physical activity to health.

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This research was sponsored by the National Recreation and Park Association and was conducted within RAND Health.

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