Survey says: Pool, trails network top picks for parks

An aquatic center and a linked trail system are at the top of South Whidbey residents’ wish list for new recreational projects, a recent survey indicates.

The results of the survey, sponsored by the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District, provide “great directional feedback for our proposed project concepts as well as some other ideas for projects to explore,” said Doug Coutts, parks director.

The survey was completed by 685 people and results appear on the parks’ website.

“We wanted to know what the community is supportive of,” Coutts said. “Now, we have to dig deeper into this and look at how we could accomplish them with grants or a bond issue.”

Residents were asked to rank their support of various concept projects, such as an aquatic/wellness center, artificial turf sports field and indoor tennis center. Improvements to lake access, the second phase of a campground, linked trails network and a recreation center were other options.

Questions also asked about voters’ level of support for a bond issue and/or a maintenance and operations levy.

An aquatic/wellness center and linked trails network received the most “strongly supportive” votes on a scale ranking the seven possible projects. About 66 percent of respondents “strongly supported” the pool and 53 percent “strongly supported” creating linked trails.

On the opposite end, about 9 percent “strongly opposed” a pool center and less than 2 percent opposed improving trails.

Constructing an indoor tennis center or a recreation center didn’t garner much support.

How to finance and maintain an indoor pool has been discussed for years by various community groups, including the South Whidbey Parks and Aquatics Foundation. Construction estimates vary based on design and size.

One possible option is to build an aquatic center that incorporates a community fitness center that could charge fees to help operational costs of maintaining a pool, Coutts said.

“Our next steps are to review the data, prioritize and look at options for funding the development of these unfunded project concepts, including grants and corporate sponsorships,” Coutts said.

Improving access to South Whidbey lakes also ranked high, which Coutts noted would be fairly easy and inexpensive compared to the other possible projects. Installing launching ramps at Goss, Deer and Lone lakes would involve the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Parks staff and commissioners will continue reviewing the cost of possible projects as part of the parks six-year comprehensive plan.

The survey also asked respondents for other project ideas. A bowling alley, pickle ball courts, a climbing wall, miniature golf, a splash park, model aircraft flying field, environmental education center and an indoor soccer arena were among the suggestions.

Comments included cautioning the parks district from adding projects that become financial “rat holes” for Island County taxpayers, building only with respect to wildlife habitat and building in phases.

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