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Moment of Nature - Sept. 1, 2017

What you had to say

Posted: August 31, 2017 8:11 a.m.
Updated: September 1, 2017 1:00 a.m.

As a municipality, we are fortunate to have a very green community. There are 20 parks and green-spaces totaling approximately 115 acres to manage and maintain. Therefore, the Parks and Trees Commission members visit our city parks every other year to check the condition of and make suggestions for improvements. City staff makes notes and incorporates many of the suggestions into budget requests for the upcoming year. 

During the spring of 2016, when on a park field trip, one of the commissioners asked, “How do we know what folks want or need in the parks,” to which I replied I didn’t know, as we don’t have a formal mechanism for asking. The seed was planted to address that question and last fall the group worked on formulating a community-based parks survey. The survey was reviewed by city staff and presented to and approved by Camden City Council during a February 2017 meeting. 

The objectives of the survey were to: 1) measure citizen value and satisfaction, 2) get a feel for how often the various parks are used and what type of use is most popular and 3) get feedback on the current condition and potential needs of the parks. 

The survey consisted of 23 questions falling into three categories: access to parks, the environment of the parks and the demographics of citizens responding. Questions regarding access addressed parks visited, time of day, length of stay, etc. Questions regarding the environment addressed park rating, level of importance and potential improvements regarding parking, lighting, landscaping, amenities, etc. Questions regarding demographics addressed age, gender, life role, ethnicity and residency.

Our approach for dissemination was to target nine geographical areas as close to most of the parks as we could. Between March and June of this year, the Parks and Trees Commission members with help from city staff, walked the streets distributing paper surveys.

About 1,950 paper surveys were distributed within the city limits. This equates to 55 percent of approximately 3,500 occupied households. We were very pleased with the overall participation and response rate which was about 430 paper surveys returned at a rate of 22 percent of households responding. In addition to the paper distribution, we posted the questions electronically on the city website and SurveyMonkey. To date, we’ve received 160 electronic responses for a grand total of 590 responses.

Even though we are still organizing the data, here’s what you had to say: The parks most visited within the past 12 months were Rectory Square (61 percent), Hampton Park (37 percent), Scott Park (34 percent), the Town Green (31 percent) and Kendall Walking Trail (30 percent). Most folks said that they stayed in the park for either one to two hours (60 percent) or less than one hour (33 percent). The time of day folks were most likely to visit was late-afternoon (41 percent), evening (27 percent) and mid-afternoon (20 percent). Reasons for not visiting parks more often were no time (28 percent), too hot/too cold (27 percent) and lack of activities (20 percent). 

The majority of park visitors were adults (53 percent) followed by youths (35 percent) and pets (27 percent), with their owners of course. Of those park visitors, 25 percent came alone, 24 percent visited with one other person, 23 percent visited with two other people and 16 percent visited with three other folks.

One of the surprising results was about half (49 percent) of respondents said that during the past 12 months, they visited a park more than 10 times, but it came as no surprise that the days of the week most likely to visit a park was Saturday (24 percent) and Sunday (17 percent). When folks do visit our parks, they come to exercise (60 percent), spend time with others (41 percent), relax (37 percent), use the playground (35 percent) and walk their pet (34 percent).

We were pleased to see that the priority level of folks to have well-maintained parks was very high (63 percent) and high (30 percent) and that folks rated the condition of the parks they visited as excellent (35 percent), good (52 percent) and fair (10 percent). Respondents were evenly split in regards to areas or items for improvement such as walking paths (39 percent), benches (36 percent), landscaping (33 percent) and trash bins (31 percent). 

When asked about the physicality of the parks visited, 90 percent agreed that they were conveniently located, 78 percent agreed that there is adequate parking, 78 percent agreed that there is adequate lighting, 68 perecnt agreed that there are adequate amenities and 78 percent agreed that park signage is easy to locate. 

The majority of the 590 respondents were city residents (91 percent), female (70 percent), Caucasian (87 percent) and full-time worker (41 percent). The age categories spanned from old to young with mature adults leading the way with 38 percent responding in the 65 years old and older, 28 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds, 22 percent of 35- to 49-year-olds and 10 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds. 

In addition to the statistical data, there were more than 250 individual comments shared, which we are still sorting through, but common threads appeared. Areas of concern regarding safety, loitering and possible unlawful activities were noted in a few of the parks and the information has been shared with the City Police Department. Another common concern was that of the walking path at Scott Park along with the need for better parking, benches and trash bins. Lastly, three major amenities requested were to establish a dog park, build a public restroom and develop a splash pad. 

From here, we will be reorganizing the data from the geographic tallying of responses to sorting it by specific park needs and requests. Using the data and comments, it is our goal in the coming months to develop a long-range strategic plan which will help guide park improvement activities and resource allocation. We gratefully acknowledge and thank the hundreds of you who took the time to respond and provide constructive feedback. Stay tuned!

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