Survey: More trails, picnic areas top parks wish list

Posted on December 13th, 2021 By:

Participants in an August survey said they’d like Gig Harbor to add more trails, tennis and pickleball courts, a splash pad or spray park, off-leash dog area, picnic places, and all-accessible playgrounds.

The city and the parks commission conducted the survey to facilitate a legally required six-year update of the Parks, Recreation and Open Space (PROS) Plan. It’s part of the comprehensive plan and guides the management and enhancement of parks, open space, trails and recreation opportunities. The current plan was adopted in 2016.

The parks commission conducted several topic-specific discussion groups, an online survey and a 10-day online open house to solicit comments from the public. Some 1,352 people responded to the survey and 205 participated in the open house, according to Conservation Technix, the consulting firm hired to lead the effort. Results were discussed at a joint study session of the commission and City Council in early December.

Respondents said the most popular reasons for using the city’s parks and trails are walking and running (73.5%), visiting the waterfront (60.5%), relaxing (49.5%), attending community events or concerts (47.5%), wildlife viewing (37.5%), water sports (35%), dog walking (34.5%), fitness (34%) and playgrounds (32.5%). Other popular activities included playing tennis or pickleball, bike riding, family gatherings and picnics, fishing, sand volleyball, and visiting the skate and BMX parks.

Nearly 66% of the survey respondents said that the activities they are most looking forward to when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted are relaxing at a park, waterfront or on a trail (65.8%), spending time outdoors with friends and family (54%), exercising and fitness activities (54%), community events and festivals (51.8%), and playing organized sports (27%).

Open house participants agreed, with 36% wanting more paved or accessible trails, 26% more picnic areas, 21.2% more playgrounds, 21.1% more pickleball and tennis courts, 20% an outdoor splash pad or spray park, and 14% a dog park.

Respondents said developing existing parks is more important than acquiring new land for additional parks (39% vs. 14.7%).

Asked if the city has enough land for parks, trails and open space to meet community needs today and in the future, 47% strongly or somewhat believe there is enough now while 48% think there isn’t. Twenty-two percent say there is enough for the future while 68% think more will be needed. Nine percent were undecided.

Slightly more than 25% listed acquiring land for trails as a priority, 21.4% listed a need for more parking for water and trail access, 11.8% listed a need for more restroom facilities and 19% said that no improvements are needed.

Regarding acquiring additional land, 51% favored land to preserve habitat and natural areas that can include walking or jogging trails and 20% listed land for sports and playgrounds as their first priority. Land acquisition for water access or waterfront activities ranked third.

Because survey respondents expressed trail expansion as a priority, the open house questionnaire explored that issue with a write-in question asking for specific information. Of the 102 responses, most favored extending Cushman Trail to the north, improved bike lanes and sidewalks, and connecting Cushman Trail and Harbor Hill to the downtown waterfront.

The survey also provided respondents with an opportunity to offer suggestions for improvements to the city’s parks, trails and open-space areas. Common themes included pickleball courts, an aquatic center, better maintenance and security of existing facilities, more trails and open space, playground improvements and lighting for sports fields. Several respondents mentioned a need for space for art and cultural events.

Based on the findings, the parks commission and the consultant are developing new goals and strategies for the 2022 PROS plan update. The City Council will review the draft plan in January and February, with final approval scheduled for early March.