Every other year the Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities (RPCA) conducts a needs assessment to understand the community's desires for its park, recreation and arts facilities and programs. The information gathered helps determine priorities, develop budgetary needs, and improve services. RPCA serves the community's park, recreational and arts needs in order to build community connections, improve well-being, and invest in our environment. We need to hear from you to know how to best achieve these goals.
In the summer of 2019, RPCA worked with the National Research Center, Inc. (NRC) to design and administer a statistically valid survey with randomly selected households. This information ensures that the survey results are demographically representative of Alexandria. Additionally, this year's study included feedback through an engagement and mapping tool. Information collected through the website provides greater detail and site-specific information to supplement the data from randomly selected households. Both the results from the statistically valid survey and the online engagement platform can be viewed here.
2019 Needs Assessment Results Overview
The City of Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities (RPCA) conducts a biennial survey of residents to determine how well it is meeting the needs and expectations of the community. Part of Alexandria’s Vision is to have a community with flourishing arts, culture and education, with healthy residents of all ages. RPCA plays an important role in making this vision reality, and the survey can help measure how it is doing. Completed surveys were returned from 693 of the 6,000 randomly selected households who received invitations to participate, for response rate of 12%. The 95% confidence interval for the survey results is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
Findings from the 2019 survey include:
- Around 8 in 10 respondents and/or their household members reported they had visited a City of Alexandria park, and about 4 in 10 had attended a special event or visited a City recreational facilities in the 12 months prior to the survey.
- Close to 2 in 10 residents indicated they had participated in a City-sponsored class or program.
- Of those who had participated, more than 9 in 10 praised the quality of the special events and classes or programs, and slightly fewer lauded the City’s parks and recreation facilities.
- Compared to 2017, more residents thought highly of the programs and classes provided by RCPA, while scores for special events and parks were consistent over time. Of note, however, when asked if they had a need for cultural special events, about 72% of respondents said they did, similar to what was seen in 2015 (75%), but higher than what was reported in 2017 (64%). Likewise, the proportion saying their need for cultural special was at least 50% met was higher in 2019 (79%) compared to 2017 (58%), but similar to the 2015 (80%).
- Most community members who had not participated were unaware of the offerings of the Department (70%) and around one-third did not know where the facilities were located (36%).
- At least one-third of Alexandria respondents relied on the City’s website (a rate that increased since 2017) or word-of-mouth from their friends and neighbors about the services offered by RPCA and around one-quarter had utilized the recreation brochure or program guide and newspapers for information. These avenues may be helpful in engaging residents who are not aware of the programs and activities offered by the City of Alexandria.
A majority of residents feel the RPCA Department is meeting their long-term goals.
- Of the nine goals put forth by the City’s RPCA Department, at least 6 in 10 awarded excellent or good scores to the job the Department is doing meeting each goal.
- The goals that were deemed the most important to residents were providing safe, inviting and vibrant spaces; conserving and managing open space; and providing natural spaces that offer physical and mental health benefits, with at least 8 in 10 stating these goals were very important. Notably, about three-quarters or more of respondents indicated that RPCA was doing an excellent or good job meeting these goals.
Respondents who had interacted with RPCA staff praised their efforts and would be open to providing feedback on projects and services.
- Around one-quarter of Alexandria residents (28%) reported they had interacted with a member of the RPCA Department in the 12 months prior to the survey administration.
- Residents’ reviews of staff were glowing, with more than 8 in 10 providing excellent or good reviews to the interaction. Ratings were slightly more positive in 2019 compared to 2017, with 43% providing excellent ratings in 2019 and 2017, but a greater proportion giving good ratings in 2019 compared to 2017.
- Unsurprisingly, at least 8 in 10 respondents reported they would be very or somewhat likely to provide RPCA feedback through additional surveys, while a similar proportion would be inclined to communicate directly with staff.
- Around 6 in 10 Alexandria residents also stated they would be very or somewhat likely to provide comments and feedback via social media or attend either in-person meetings or focus groups or web-based public meetings.
Survey respondents were presented with a list of programs and a list of facilities, and asked whether they or anyone in their household had a need for the particular item, and if they did, how well that need was being met with the current offerings. They were also asked to choose the four items from each list that were of greatest importance to their household. The average unmet need was plotted against the importance ratings for each of the programs and facilities included on the survey. The programs and facilities with the highest unmet need of high importance to the greatest proportion of residents are those on which RPCA may wish to concentrate.
The programs of higher importance with higher unmet need included:
- Volunteer/community projects
- Adult continuing education programs
- Adult creative and performing arts
- Adult nature programs/environmental education
- Walking/biking groups
- Adult learn to swim instruction
- Programs with pets
- Adult day and weekend travel programs
- Adult organized sports program
The facilities of higher importance with higher unmet need included:
- Indoor pools
- Indoor exercise and fitness facilities
- Rock climbing walls
- Outdoor public art
- River/stream activities (kayak launch, sailing, etc.)
- Nature center
- Indoor running/walking track
- Community gardens
- Fishing areas
- Indoor facility for older adults
The full survey results can be found here.