DOBSON — Results of a recent survey prove one thing: Surry County residents love their parks.
As part of the process of developing a master plan to guide the county’s Parks and Recreation Department, Director Daniel White said he has spent the past several months seeking input from the public about how they use the county’s parks.
“We have been working on this for a while,” he said. “We sent out a survey in every tax bill that went out in the county and have received well over 800 responses.”
White noted that his department will continue to accept surveys through the end of the month.
“After that, we’re going to have to start analyzing data, but we extended the deadline on the surveys a month beyond what we’d initially projected,” he said.
Quite a bit of work has gone into the process already, White said.
“We had an intern this summer who spent 10 weeks evaluating park sites in the county, inventorying facilities and getting other things together to go with the surveys we’ve received,” he said. “Ultimately, that will be compiled into a master plan that will guide us into the future.”
In addition, White said public meetings were held over past several months in Mount Airy, Pilot Mountain, Dobson and Elkin to solicit public input.
At this point, however, the survey results have proven enlightening, White added.
“What we’re seeing right now is Fisher River Park, Pilot Mountain Park and Riverside Park are neck-and-neck for the most visited parks in the county,” he said. “Pilot Mountain is in the lead with 391 respondents saying they’d visited in the past year, while Fisher River Park is right behind them with 389 people saying they’d visited in the past year. Riverside Park received 336 responses.”
What does this say?
“It says people are using the recreational facilities in the county,” White said. “Right now, 52 percent of people who responded said they agree that parks and recreation facilities enhance the economic health of the community, and 35 percent said they strongly agree.”
According to the surveys received, county residents are using the parks for a variety of recreational activities.
“People use the parks for rest and relaxation, the picnic facilities and fishing quite a bit,” White said. “But we’re seeing that the county is continuing a trend across North Carolina where walking is the most popular exercise.”
White said that 562 people, or 81 percent of survey respondents, said they currently participate in walking in the county’s parks.
“There is another 11 percent who said they plan on participating in the future,” he noted. “And 51 percent of people said they use the parks for trail hiking.”
Canoeing and kayaking are also popular, according to the parks director, who said that 62 percent of people responding say they either participate regularly or plan on participating in the future.
For White, the surveys are critical to planning for the future.
“This helps ensure that we’re doing what the public wants to see us do,” he said. “It helps us know that our efforts are working toward the public needs.”
In addition, the master plan, once completed, will help the department secure grant funding and justify any potential facility improvements or construction.
“This will allow us to create a plan to go by for the next 10 years,” he said.
White said he hopes to have a plan in place to present to the county’s board of commissioners by the end of November or the first of December.
White laughed, considering the work involved.
“But those are just goals at this point,” he said.
Anyone wanting to participate in the survey can visit http://www.co.surry.nc.us/departments/%28k_through_z%29/park_and_recreation/master_plan.php. The link can also be found via a Google search for “Surry County Parks and Recreation Master Plan.”
Keith Strange can be reached at 336-415-4698 or via Twitter @strangereporter.