Parks and recreation survey affects cities seeking grants

Parks and recreation survey affects cities seeking grants
Beachgoers enjoy Cardiff State Beach, one of San Diego’s most popular state beaches. Photo by Jared Whitlock

COAST CITIES — Some San Diegans will soon be asked to take part in a phone, mail or online survey that could impact future grant funding for local parks and recreation facilities. 

The California Department of Parks and Recreation Department, along with the University of Utah and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, will be conducting a statewide survey in the next several months to gauge residents’ changing preferences and habits when it comes to park use.

“We do a survey every four or five years to stay current,” said Philomene Smith, assistant director of recreation and community services for Parks and Recreation. “Results will identify levels of physical activity, popular facilities and opportunities for new facilities.”

The Land and Water Conservation Fund, or LWCF, will award federal grants to cities and counties partially based on findings from the surveys. Applications for grants that include activities or facilities that are found to be popular with respondents will be given more consideration, according to Smith.

“For instance, if a city is putting in a request for a hiking trail, picnic area or a ball field, they’ll get points based on what type of facilities respondents said they use on a regular basis or would like to have more opportunity to use in the future,” Smith said.

San Diego has received about $13 million in grants for 86 projects from the LWCF since the mid-1960s. For example, $68,500 from the LWCF covered more than half of the cost to construct a soccer field at Raintree Park in Vista in 2007. Oceanside was given $428,000 for a skatepark in 2011. Most recently, $214,000 from the LWCF will provide nearly half of the funding for a new amphitheater in Fallbrook.

In addition to federal grants, survey results help private recreation companies like ski resorts plan future facilities. Health agencies also stand to benefit from results that illuminate recreation trends.

Among other key findings, the Park and Recreation’s last survey that was released in 2009 found that more than two-thirds of adults spend the same or more time in outdoor recreation facilities compared to the previous five years.

According to Smith, because this year’s survey will have a larger sample size, Parks and Recreation can look at the differences in regions’ preferences. A representative sample of seven regions across the state, including Southern California, will participate in the survey.

Brian Ketterer, Orange Coast area superintendent for California State Parks (formerly for coastal northern San Diego County) said that Southern California is distinct because of its increasing demand for day-use facilities.

“Possibly more than other regions, park and beachgoers in Southern California want more places that accommodate day use,” Ketterer said. “More easily accessible camping spots and places that are friendly for barbecuing and other activities in a family setting.”

According to Ketterer, Torrey Pines State Beach is the most visited state park in San Diego, while Cardiff State Beach is the most popular for recreational activities.

Results from the survey will be posted spring 2013. For more information, visit parks.ca.gov.

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