Survey Says: More walking trails, please

Camas residents sound off on recreation needs; city hosts virtual open house to help update parks plan

An overwhelming majority of people who responded to a recent survey about the future of Camas’ parks, recreational activities and open spaces felt very strongly that parks and recreation is critical to the city’s quality of life.

Of the 1,385 people who responded to the survey either online (876 respondents) or via mail (509 respondents), 85.2 percent said parks and recreation is essential to the quality of life in Camas, while another 12.8 percent said they are “important, but not really essential.” 1.5 percent said parks and recreation were “useful, but not necessary.” Only 0.2 percent responded that parks and recreation are “not important.”

Camas Parks and Recreation Director Trang Lam, along with Conservation Technix consultant Steve Duh, presented the results of the survey to the city’s Parks Commission, interim mayor Ellen Burton and City Councilwoman Shannon Roberts during an online presentation held July 28.

The city launched its three-week virtual Camas Parks and Recreation open house two days later, on July 30, to help share information about the city’s existing parks and trails and collect more feedback from the community about what types of parks and recreation facilities and programs are needed — or need improvement — in the city of Camas.

The city will use the results of the survey, along with information gathered at the virtual open house, which runs through Aug. 22, to help build the draft Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces (PROS) Plan. The city will present the draft PROS Plan during a second open house, possibly held in-person, in the fall or early winter.

The city updates its PROS Plan, which serves as a guide for future park improvements and new recreation programs, every six years.

“We’re excited to offer this virtual open house to the community,” Lam said in a recent press release by the city. “We’ve already had tremendous support for the PROS Plan with over 1,300 responses to the June community survey. This shows how engaged our Camas community is when it comes to our parks, recreation and open spaces, so I’m especially excited to see the turnout through this open house.”

The open house can be accessed through the city’s Engage Camas site, at engagecamas.com/parks-recreation-open-space-comprehensive-plan.

Camas has more than 240 acres of parkland, 765 acres of open space and several miles devoted to trails, including the 7-mile Heritage Trail, 6-mile network of trails inside Lacamas Park and the 2-mile Washougal River Greenway Trail.

Asked about their top reasons for visiting Camas’ parks and open spaces, 79.5 percent of survey respondents listed “walking or running” as their main use. “Fitness/exercise” came in second (72%), followed by relaxation (55%), dog walking (42.7%), playgrounds (41.8%), bike riding (39.8%), wildlife viewing (35.2%), family gatherings or picnicking (34.8%) and boating with non-motorized or hand-carry boats (32%).

Lower on the list, with fewer than 30 percent of respondents saying these were their main reasons for using Camas’ parks, recreation and open spaces were: sport fields (29.4%), swimming (21.3%), outdoor sport courts (18.9%), recreation programs, classes or camps (16.9%), fishing (13.4%), motorized boating (7.7%) and disc golf (6.7%).

Asked to gauge the need for certain facilities or uses in Camas’ parks and open spaces, 48.7 percent of respondents said there were “not enough” walking or biking trails, while 41.9 percent said there were “about the right number” of trails. Nearly 8 percent said they believed the city had “more than enough” walking or biking trails.

When prioritizing projects, most respondents said the city should focus on its existing park facilities and delayed maintenance needs, then expand trail opportunities and build new parks on undeveloped, city-owned parkland. Lower in the list of priorities were acquiring additional land for future parks, building a new community or aquatic center and expending recreation classes and camps.

When given a list of specific programs and facility needs, more than 40 percent of respondents said they were “very supportive” and 28.5 percent said they were “somewhat supportive” of a pool or aquatic center. The amenities ranking highest in the survey with respondents saying they were “very supportive,” included additional walking trails in parks (59.2%), additional biking trails in parks (47.4%), all-abilities, accessible playground equipment (45.4%), outdoor splash pad or water spray park (44.2%), updated or renovated playgrounds at existing parks (41.4%), off-leash dog parks (35%), additional picnic shelters for group gatherings (31.6%) and a new community center with indoor gymnasium (29.5%).

The amenities that had the least amount of “very supportive” responses from survey respondents included additional basketball courts (18.8%), additional sport fields for baseball or softball (19.4%), additional or upgraded skate park (20%), additional sport fields for soccer, football or lacrosse (20.9%), a BMX or pump track (22%), disc golf course (22.5%) and additional tennis or pickleball courts (27.5%).

Amenities with the highest amount of people saying they were “not supportive” included a BMX/pump track (34.5%) — possibly due to a lack of public awareness about what a “pump track” is, Lam said — additional or upgraded skate park (32.4%) and additional sports fields for baseball or softball (32.3%).

Other interesting highlights of the survey included a question about the public’s willingness to pay additional taxes for certain parks and recreation amenities. Though the city’s bond measure to pay for a community aquatics center failed 90-10 in the 2019 general election, nearly 42 percent of survey respondents said they would be willing to increase taxes to “build a new pool or aquatic center” in Camas. That option ranked second on the list next to those willing to pay additional taxes to “acquire and develop land to fill gaps in trail corridors” (58.2%). Asked if they would increase taxes to “build another community center with gymnasium and fitness space — another component of the failed community aquatics center bond — only 30.3 percent said they would be willing to increase taxes for that specific purpose.

The city sent its mail survey to 2,500 randomized addresses and had a 20 percent response rate. The online survey, which was available in English and Spanish to the entire community, garnered 876 responses. Nearly all of the respondents (97% mail and 89% online) live in Camas and came from all parts of the city. Neither survey attracted the attention of the city’s youth, with only 1% (mail and online) of those age 20 or younger responding.

Lam said the city marketed the survey with the Camas School District, but still didn’t gather much input from Camas’ youth, possibly due to the timing of the survey.

“It hit during the summertime, and no kid is going to want to do a survey in the summer,” Lam said, adding that the difference between the city’s population of those under age 20 (31%) was far higher than the 1 percent of “under 20” survey respondents.

The way people responded to the city’s survey also showed a few differences. The online survey attracted slightly younger respondents than the mail survey with 45 percent of those responding online in their 20s, 30s and early 40s, compared to 32 percent of the mail respondents. Likewise, 43 percent of the mail respondents were older than 55, compared to 23 percent of the online respondents. The online respondents also were more likely to have children in their households than the mail respondents (69.3% versus 45.8%). The online survey respondents also were more likely to support paying higher taxes to support a BMX/pump track and pool/aquatic center than mail respondents.

The full survey results are available on the city’s Engage Camas site, at engagecamas.com/parks-recreation-open-space-comprehensive-plan. To read more about the PROS Plan and the city’s new parks and recreation director, visit camaspostrecord.com/news/2021/apr/15/camas-new-parks-director-hits-the-ground-running.