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Park District has a summer survey, too

t Waterfront access, bike trails among islanders’ priorities.

Earlier this year, to gauge community opinion, the city launched a few surveys. So too did the city’s Health, Housing and Human Services Council.

Not to be outdone, the park district this summer did a survey of its own, as part of its periodic comprehensive plan update.

“It’s a reality check,” said Park District Senior Planner Perry Barrett of the survey effort. “It gives us a guide in terms of what citizens are generally looking for and will help us shape our programs.”

The survey found that 63 percent of island households polled used recreational programs provided by the park district over the past year.

Aquatic instruction, physical fitness, arts and crafts instruction, and special events – like festivals and farmers markets – ranked near the top of recreational programs desired by survey participants; after-school programs and teen social and education activities landed at the bottom of the list.

The survey also asked about the need for additional park facilities.

Waterfront access and swimming beaches, beach hiking trails and on-road bicycle routes were among the highest priorities of respondents; horse trails, dog parks and skateboard courts were among the lowest priorities.

Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said conserving open space – including wildlife corridors, shorelines and farmlands – should be the park district’s h ighest priority.

The survey was conducted last month using a random sample of resident voter households.

Two hundred households agreed to participate and were mailed a list of questions; the first 100 households to follow-up with a telephone call were included in the results.

Survey planners say the results are accurate to within 10 percent of the opinions of the voter population; no weighting methods were used.

Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents were age 50 or older; nearly 70 percent have lived on the island for at least 10 years; 98 percent were homeowners.

Fifty-six percent of respondents were from north of High School Road, with the rest living either in or near Winslow or on the south end of the island.

Nearly 60 percent of respondents provided written comments.

“The survey assumes there are not enough parks,” one person said. “My contention is there are, but they need to be maintained or expanded.”

Other respondents agreed, saying some existing parks are inaccessible and need better or more parking.

Some emphasized a need for more parks and green spaces in Winslow, as well as larger senior center facilities, more walking trails, benches and restrooms.

Some took shots at the survey itself.

“I think it is a poorly worded survey and it has a bunch of loaded and directed questions,” one respondent said. “Questions about financing were lumped together and that made it hard to answer because I felt some needed help financially while others did not.”

Many respondents said park plans should be scaled back due to rising taxes.

“The plan is too grandiose,” one person said. “People are being driven off the island because of taxes and existing home prices.”

A different survey conducted by the Trust for Public Land earlier this year suggested island voters would likely support a $10 million bond measure in November. That survey also said the bond issue, if proposed, should be crafted in part around parks.

Voters passed an $8 million open space bond in 2001 that funded numerous open space acquisitions, but that money has been exhausted.

In addition to helping shape park plans, Barrett said the survey results – and the park district’s overall comprehensive plan efforts – will assist park planners as they pursue grants and other funding.

Other documents, including a city open space study and a study done jointly by the city and park district regarding parks in Winslow, will also be included in the updated comprehensive plan.

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