Alexandrians will have an opportunity to hear preliminary results of the recreation needs survey at public meetings next week.
The surveys were mailed in March and consultants made follow-up phone calls in April. Now, some results are available. They indicate that Alexandrians want to see the department focus attention on developing more trails for biking, hiking and jogging and on parks.
The surveys are part of a comprehensive needs assessment that the department of Parks Recreation and Cultural activities has been conducting for nearly one year. Sandra Whitmore, the director of the department, heard a report from Leon Younger and Pros, the consultant who is managing the project, earlier this month.
Surveys were mailed to households throughout the city that were selected at random. Respondents were required to be 18 years old or more.
According to the results, nearly half of those surveyed had used or participated in one of the department’s programs within the last year. The consultants indicated that this is high in comparison to the five other cities of a similar size against which Alexandria was compared. Also, nearly half of those who responded said that the city’s priority should be more parks and trails as opposed to buildings. Two thirds of those responding said that having a home in proximity to a park increased the value of that home and even more than that said that parks were an economic benefit to the city.
WHEN ASKED WHAT other types of facilities respondents used, 42 percent said that they had used a National Park facility within the last year and almost one third said that they had used churches for their recreational needs. The consultants said that this is a trend nationally. Churches are the fastest growing providers of recreational activities in the country.
“We are very pleased and think that this will give us some clear guidance for developing a comprehensive plan for the future of programs and facilities for the city,” Whitmore said. “We had a number of small focus groups prior to conducting the survey and now we are going to go back to the community, share the results and make certain that what we are hearing is truly representative of community sentiment.”
THERE WILL BE THREE public meetings next week: one at the William Ramsay Recreation Center on Monday, May 20, at 7 p.m.; one at the Mt. Vernon Recreation Center on Tuesday, May 21, at 7 p.m. and the third at the Nannie J. Lee Center on Thursday, May 23, at 7 p.m.
“We will spend the summer putting together a report to Council that will include an implementation plan,” Whitmore said.
That report will be presented some time in the fall.