Three to four thousand Alexandrians will receive surveys in the next few weeks about recreational needs.
The surveys are about four pages long and will take about 20 minutes to complete, according to Sandra Whitmore, the director of the Department of Parks Recreation and Cultural Activities. “We really hope that people will take the time to complete and return them because this is the only way that we can plan for the future,” Whitmore said.
The survey is part of the department’s comprehensive needs assessment. Work began about six months ago when City Council appointed a steering committee and the department hired a consultant. Since that time, consultants have held small focus groups throughout the city and the steering committee has approved the survey.
“The focus groups were very successful,” Whitmore said. “We kept the groups very small – 10-15 people in each, and we held them in all three of our recreation department planning areas. We used a lot of the information that we got from these focus groups in compiling the survey.”
The survey contains questions about facility uses and needs as well as programmatic participation and deficits. “We really want to get a sense of what people in the community are using and what they feel they have to go outside the city to get,” Whitmore said.
One of the questions deals with whether people think we need a senior center, a teen center, a multi-generational center or whether we have the facilities and simply need specific programming. “We aren’t looking at any specific sites for such a facility if it is needed, just whether there is a need,” Whitmore said.
LOOKING AT ALL ISSUES
Whitmore is combining the needs assessment with the open space needs assessment and will present findings on both issues at the same time to City Council. “It is very important that we look at these issues in tandem,” she said. “We can’t talk about open space and have Council make a decision and then, later, say that we need all of these facilities or that we need some of the open space to be playing fields. Planning is essential.”
Whitmore said that the plan will unfold over the next 10 to 20 years. “When we hired the consultants, we told them that we want to devise a plan that is realistic, not one that is going to get put on a shelf somewhere because it is impossible to achieve,” she said.
Mayor Kerry J. Donley agreed. “We must plan for the future for all of our residents, adults and children alike,” he said. “I am really hoping that we get information on what the entire city would like to see in the way of recreation facilities. We often hear from small groups of residents about very specific items and this needs assessment will give us an opportunity to listen to the members of the population who do not come to Council meetings all of the time.”
Once the consultants have mailed the first set of surveys, they will make follow-up calls to random survey recipients. “While the surveys are in English, those who are more comfortable in another language and who want to discuss their responses can do so because the consultants have people in their offices who speak a variety of languages,” Whitmore said.
Survey results will be tabulated in April and shared with the community in a series of public meetings in the three planning areas. A plan for the recreation department, facilities and programs and for obtaining and/or preserving open space will be presented to City Council in early fall.