Survey says Naperville parks ‘in tune’ with community needs

Naperville Park District officials weren’t surprised by the results of their most recent community interest and opinion survey, a scientific poll that effectively told leaders they’re doing a lot of things right.

The survey found 95 percent of respondents had used a park within the past year and, on average, gave the district a score of 7.9 on a 0-10 scale.

It found no consensus on any indoor facility the district needs to add and concluded that although two-thirds of people expressed a need for outdoor trails, they also think the current trail network largely meets that need.

“We’re pretty much in tune with what the community thinks,” park board President Mike Reilly said.

The survey, conducted by Evanston-based aQity Research & Insights, polled 512 Naperville households this spring in a representative sample to match the district’s demographics by age, ethnicity and percentage of households with children. Pollsters also balanced the addresses of surveyed families to match census data that show 33 percent of residents live in the city’s northwest region, 17 percent in the northeast, and 25 percent each in the southwest and southeast.

Past surveys have led the district to add more trail links, such as a recently completed milelong section of the DuPage River Trail in Will County, and to increase indoor recreation opportunities by opening the Fort Hill Activity Center last August.

This year’s survey asked about the need for features such as an indoor recreation center in south Naperville, an indoor pool, an ice rink and a splash pad.

But Ray McGury, executive director, said the results contained no mandate to add any such features.

“There’s nothing in this survey that screams, ‘Get this done,'” McGury said. “Generally speaking, the public is very satisfied with what we’re doing.”

Satisfaction with the district’s newer offerings ranked high among survey respondents, with the Knoch Knolls Nature Center, which opened in 2014, and the Fort Hill Activity Center both receiving an average 8.1 score on a 0-10 scale. The Riverwalk Cafe, which reopened in June 2016 with indoor renovations, an outdoor patio and a new menu, recorded a 7.8, and the 95th Street Center, which opened in 2012, scored a 7.7.

“I’ve been doing this long enough to know you don’t get complacent,” McGury said. “Until we’re getting 10s, we’ll continue to work.”

Overall, respondents who recently had used parks and facilities gave the experience a score of 8.3 and the upkeep of the amenities an 8.4.

Reilly and McGury said the district’s new Central Maintenance Facility, which opened in June in Knoch Park, will help make continued preservation of assets a priority.

“We’re going to take care of what we have,” McGury said.

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