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County Survey: Seventy Percent Interested in Swimming and Fitness at Long Bridge Park

A newly-released survey on recreational needs in Arlington may help the case for building an aquatics and fitness facility at Long Bridge Park.

Arlington County scrapped plans to build a Long Bridge Aquatics Center in 2014, after construction bids on what was supposed to be a $79 million project came in well over budget. Since then, the county has sought public input on community recreation needs and considered partnering with the City of Alexandria on a facility.

The new survey asked about county-wide parks and recreation needs, as part of the update to the county’s Public Spaces Master Plan.

Survey respondents ranked a swimming pool and fitness equipment as the county’s two top indoor recreation needs. That corresponds to the county’s goals for a new indoor “Aquatic, Health and Fitness Facility” at Long Bridge Park.

Furthermore, the survey asked specifically about potential amenities at such a facility. Seventy percent of respondents said they had an interest in amenities at a Long Bridge Park facility, ranking their three “most important” amenities as:

  1. 50 meter pool,
  2. Health/fitness space with cardio/strength training
  3. Leisure pool with water slide, lazy river

County Board member Jay Fisette said he was “hopeful” the county could move forward on the Long Bridge Park facility.

“This seems to suggest to me that it validates the same or more interest in Long Bridge Park than we thought there was before,” he said. Fisette pointed out that in 2012 nearly two-thirds of Arlington residents approved a bond issue that was intended primarily to pay for the aquatics and fitness facility.

John Vihstadt, the lone non-Democrat on the Board, took a more restrained view.

“It really boils down to what sort of facilities and at what cost,” Vihstadt said. “I look forward to the discussion.”

Other survey findings include:

  • Hiking trails, natural areas and paved multi-use trails are the top outdoor recreation priorities
  • Nature, fitness and wellness programs, as well as special events and festivals, are the top parks and rec programming priorities
  • Most people would support food and beverage — including, potentially, alcohol — options in local parks and public plazas

The full county press release about the survey results, after the jump.

Being active and enjoying time with friends and nature: that’s what Arlingtonians said loud and clear in a statistically-valid survey the County conducted as part of its update of the Public Spaces Master Plan. Last adopted in 2005, the plan provides a vision and strategies for all of Arlington’s park, natural resource and recreation needs.

“It’s no surprise – Arlingtonians love their parks,” said Jane Rudolph, director of the Department of Parks & Recreation. “The data we’ve received from this survey, along with the input from several large community engagement opportunities, will help us shape the future for our parks and programs.”

Key highlights from the survey:

  • Hiking trails, natural areas and wildlife habitats, and paved multi-use trails are the top outdoor community recreation priorities.
  • Swimming pools and exercise/fitness equipment are the top indoor community recreation priorities.
  • Top activities and programs include nature, fitness/wellness and special events/festivals.

Planning for the future

Nature is of primary importance to Arlingtonians per the survey results. More than 60 percent said they had a need for nature programs, and many respondents also gave high ratings to outdoor amenities. Residents indicated their greatest needs are for trails (both hiking and biking) and natural areas. They also expressed strong interest in festivals and other events to enliven County parks. And the community wants options for additional food and beverage service in parks as well.

When asked, 70 percent of Arlington households had an interest in the amenities at the planned indoor Aquatic, Health and Fitness Facility at Long Bridge Park. The top amenities are a 50-meter pool, health/fitness training equipment and a family-friendly leisure pool. The survey also asked people how late in the day they want access to outdoor facilities. Sixty-four percent said they would use parks up until 9 p.m. on weekdays. An additional 24 percent would like them available until 10 p.m. Currently, County outdoor facilities are closed when dark, unless they are lighted.

Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz presented survey highlights to the County Board at its March 15 Recessed Meeting. To view the presentation; go to 01:22 on the video. Complete survey data will be posted online in April. To read more about the Public Spaces Master Plan update, “POPS: A Plan for Our Places and Spaces.”

Statistically-valid data

Arlington hired ETC Institute to conduct the survey, which administered similar surveys for Arlington parks and recreation department in 2002 and 2008. ETC is a national leader in market research for local governments and has administered Arlington County’s four Resident Satisfaction Surveys.

A random sample of residents living in Arlington responded to the seven-page survey by mail, phone and online. ETC ensured that demographics of survey respondents accurately reflected the actual population of the County. This statistically-valid survey has a confidence level of 95 percent, +/- 2.5 percent. ETC received about twice as many survey responses as expected.

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