Chandler residents prefer trails over new buildings - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler residents prefer trails over new buildings

September 24th, 2020 SanTan Sun News
Chandler residents prefer trails over new buildings

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

A majority of Chandler residents say walking, hiking and biking are their most favorite recreational activities and believe the city should invest in improving its existing trail system.

According to citywide surveys conducted over the last year, 43 percent of Chandler residents said walking and biking trails are their most cherished recreational amenity — the most popular response among a variety of options that included splash pads, playgrounds and neighborhood parks.

And respondents are much more willing to spend tax dollars on preserving trails rather than building new amenities; 31 percent of residents were willing to fund improvements to Chandler’s trails system and only 6 percent were willing to pay for new sports facilities.

Michael Svetz, a member of the Pros Consulting firm, said he expected Chandler residents to favor trails and pathways over other amenities because most Americans get their exercise by simply walking.

“This is not surprising because trails across the entire country is always the most important thing,” the consultant said.

Svetz and his team have spent the last few months gathering public input and collecting data that the city will eventually use to update Chandler’s parks master plan, a document that outlines the city’s recreational objectives and strategies.

Phase one of the plan update recently concluded and Svetz’s team has begun sharing some of the preliminary results of their findings.

The survey shows Chandler residents appear to have less attachment to amenities tied to specific sports or recreational activities.

Less than 5 percent of respondents selected tennis, volleyball or pickleball courts as favorite amenities. Only 2 percent of respondents picked Little League or softball fields as their most important facility – a data point some city leaders found hard to believe.

“Club soccer, club softball are huge out here,” said Councilman Matt Orlando. “If you look at the Arizona, California, New Mexico markets – softball’s huge.”

Council was chastised by one local youth softball league earlier this year for not providing enough fields in Chandler that could accommodate their games and practices.

The league began circulating a petition in the hopes of pushing city leaders to dedicate resources for safer, more accessible softball fields.

Svetz said the initial data on softball fields doesn’t imply the city won’t need more fields in the future.

The activities requiring specific athletic skills typically rank near the bottom of these surveys, he added, and Chandler seems to be no different than how other communities respond to these questionnaires.

“Ninety percent of your community is not interested in playing on a baseball field or soccer field,” Svetz said about the Chandler data.

Beyond Chandler’s survey results, Svetz said national trends indicate adult softball leagues have been declining for years – which has prompted many cities to rethink how they should build new athletic fields.

“It’s just something that has ebbed and flowed,” he said about softball trends.

Overall results from the parks survey show Chandler’s residents are overwhelmingly satisfied with the city’s current inventory of recreational services.

At least 88 percent of respondents reported visiting a local park within the last year, 49 reported using the city’s trails and 19 percent visited an athletic field.

“That is a really good indication and statement on the safety of your community,” Svetz said.

Fifty-four percent of respondents rated Chandler’s parks as being in “good” condition, 31 percent thought they were “excellent,” and 14 percent thought they were “fair.”

The master plan update further assessed what types of services weren’t being met in specific sections of Chandler.

Residents living in the western and southeastern regions felt their neighborhoods were in need of larger community parks. Chandler’s northern residents reported wanting to see more picnic areas, dog parks and splash pads.

Communities in the city’s southeast region wanted Chandler to prioritize swimming and fishing programs.

When asked how the city could improve its parks system, 71 percent of Chandler residents said they were very supportive of seeing money spent on repairing and maintaining existing parks – the survey’s most popular answer.

Respondents also indicated a high degree of support for adding walking loops to existing parks or improving the city’s restroom facilities.

There was notably less support for projects involving building new facilities or adding new amenities to existing parks. Forty-five percent of respondents were “not sure” whether they supported building a new skate park in Chandler and 14 percent opposed adding more dog parks.

The master plan study estimated how many households across Chandler had a need for specific recreational services that were currently unmet.

More than 29,000 households are believed to have needs for a community garden that are not being fully satisfied by the city’s current services.

Nearly 25,000 households have an unmet need for “adventure areas” that could include obstacle or rope courses.

Another 26,600 households are estimated to have an unmet need for walking and biking trails that was 50 percent or less.

“It is exceptionally important to find out the needs of your community – both needs that are being met as well as unmet needs,” Svetz said.

It will be necessary for the city to utilize its parks master plan as a roadmap moving forward, he added, as Chandler’s residential population continues to grow and demand for new services starts to climb.

Chandler’s population is expected to rise from 278,300 to 336,800 residents by 2029.

“If you’re going to maintain an existing level of service, you’re going to have to expand your park system across the board,” Svetz said.

The city’s consultants will spend the next few months conducting financial evaluations and surveying Chandler facilities before they present a final update to the park master plan early next year.

“There is a lot of other data that is yet to be had that will help to inform the ‘strategic-ness’ of the recommendations that come forward,” Svetz said.

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