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Parks and trails on the right track, survey says
Results are in from the city’s parks survey, showing people use city parks and speak favorably of them, but a decision on a Sequim parks and recreation district or department remains up in the air.
Ron Vine, a market researcher and vice president of ETC Institute, presented the survey’s findings on Monday, Sept. 26, to city councilors.
In the city and within Sequim School District boundaries, residents returned 722 surveys of the projected 600. Three hundred were expected from each area.City and Sequim-Dungeness residents didn’t show much difference in their decision making, Vine said. Both showed high usage of city parks and recreation services.
One of the principle reasons for the survey, determining if there is a need to form a parks and recreation district and/or department, showed participants would vote 37 percent in favor of forming a district; 20 percent said maybe. Twenty percent weren’t sure and 23 percent said no.
A majority of those who marked no or not sure said they didn’t want to pay additional tax dollars for parks, trails and recreation facilities (41 percent) or they felt there are enough services already (31 percent).
“If the election was today, you wouldn’t get 60 percent of the vote,” Vine said.
“To be pretty positive, you’d want them to vote 40 percent at this time with 20 percent or lower against. Twenty-three percent who say no are not going to vote in favor of it.”
More than 60 percent of those surveyed said they’d invest additional property taxes for an enhanced parks and recreation system.
When asked what they’d spend maximum, 47 percent of people said they would spend $1 to $5. Twenty percent said they would spend $6 or more, but 33 percent said they wouldn’t spend anything.
Determining between a parks district, a city parks department or neither showed a split decision.
Thirty-two percent voted both against a district and against a city department, whereas 30 percent wanted a regional parks and recreation district, 29 percent wanted both, and 9 percent wanted only a parks and recreation department in the city.
Sequim respondents’ biggest priority was maintaining walking and biking trails (75 percent). They said other needs include large state and national parks (74 percent), beach areas (72 percent) and large city and Sequim-Dungeness parks (69 percent).
“Remember people being satisfied with police services?” Vine asked, referencing the citizen’s satisfaction survey. “They are saying you’ve done a good job. Keep it up. Same thing with trails.”
Councilor Don Hall echoed residents’ call for keeping trails intact.
“We have a good trail system, but it’s getting cracks,” Hall said. “We’ve got to put money aside to maintain those trails.”
Vine agrees. “What they most say is maintain what you already have,” he said.
Households ranked walking, hiking and biking trails as the most important parks and recreation service by the city (39 percent). Large state and national parks (27 percent) was second, and large city and Sequim-Dungeness Parks and beach areas (25 percent each) tied for third and fourth most important.
Trails are the most visited service at 56 percent, with the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center second at 19 percent. As for programming, 43 percent of residents responding said the biggest need is for community special events. Forty-two percent said adult fitness and wellness programs, along with recreational swimming.
Opposed to fees
One abnormality Vine pointed out was the high number (31 percent) saying fees are so high that they can’t/won’t use facilities and/or programs. The second obstruction was 18 percent not knowing what’s offered and 11 percent saying both that a particular program or facility is not offered and that program times are not convenient.
Vine said nationally, the No. 1 barrier — at about 10 percent — is people not knowing what’s happening.
“I’ve seen fees be high, but I’ve never seen such a gap,” he said.
Barbara Hanna, the city’s communications and marketing manager, told the Gazette that the city doesn’t charge for park services.
She said participants could mean the national and state park fees, SARC and/or golf courses.
The city currently has no fees for using services such as playfields or picnic shelters.
Pleased with parks
In the past year, more than half of respondents had visited Sequim parks and recreation sites. Of those, 89 percent visited Carrie Blake Park; 75 percent visited Railroad Bridge Park; and 68 percent visited the John Wayne Marina.
Those who visited the sites rated the parks as excellent (31 percent), good (60 percent) and fair (9 percent).
“This is a community that really values outdoor parks and trails,” Vine said.
He said determining what to do next brings up the question, “Is excellent good enough?”
Councilor Ted Miller said he was surprised by the level of interest in going forward with a parks and recreation district but it’s obvious it would need to be done in the Sequim School District.
“If the council goes forward, we’ve got to do a better job of selling it,” Miller said. “I’d like to see something done but (we) might need to wait for the recession to recede.”
Mayor Pro-tem Laura Dubois said she was pleased there were a reasonable amount of people willing to support a parks and recreation district. However, she said the survey shows people feel there is a gap in services. One example is Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center.
“SARC has limited itself to a parks and recreation department in one building and usually those have a lot of activities spread out across other buildings and outdoor activities,” she said.
“There are unmet needs and it seems to be the agreement on both sides of city limits. We can’t do it alone as a city to meet their needs.”
Dubois said the survey was done to gather information and not with any intention of taking over SARC.
“We do not want to take over anything,” she said.
The full survey results will be available soon on www.ci.sequim.wa.us or by contacting the City of Sequim 152. W. Cedar St., at 683-4139.
Reach Matthew Nash at email@example.com.