What is Shared Use?
Communities across the country are seeking safe, accessible, and affordable places for children and their families to exercise and play. Public schools have a variety of recreational facilities—gymnasiums, playgrounds, fields, courts, and tracks—where people can engage in physical activity. In low-income communities, schools are often the only place to find safe and affordable recreation facilities. Unfortunately, these spaces are often locked and inaccessible to the community during non-school hours due to concerns about resources, maintenance, security, and liability. The good news is that schools and other public agencies are embracing shared use as a strategy to create more opportunities for physical activity.
“Shared use” – also called “joint use” or “community use” – occurs when government entities, or sometimes private, nonprofit organizations, agree to open or broaden access to their facilities for community use. Shared use can take place on a formal basis (based on a written, legal document) or on an informal basis (based on historical practice).
School districts and other municipal entities increasingly recognize that providing access to existing recreational facilities is one of the most promising strategies for building more opportunities for physical activity. In an era of budget shortfalls, maximizing access to existing facilities – rather than developing new ones – can be an efficient and economical use of public resources.
Moving Beyond the Schoolyard
Although shared use is most often used as a strategy to increase physical activity opportunities on school grounds, other government agencies, community-based organizations, and faith-based institutions are successfully implementing other types of shared use arrangements. Examples include using public or private property for growing food, opening kitchen facilities for cooking classes, and creating recreational opportunities with non-traditional partners such as utility districts.
To help you learn more and get started with shared use in your community, we’ve created the following resources:
- Our Path to Shared Use
- Nuts and Bolts – Creating an Agreement
- Open Use – An Alternative
- Addressing Liability Concerns
- State-Specific Resources
- How We Can Work With You
Watch our new one-minute video, which gives a quick but vivid picture of how shared use can help your community: