RPCA Needs Assessment Survey

The City of Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities conducts citywide Needs Assessment survey biennially to establish priorities for the future development of Alexandria’s parks, recreation, cultural facilities, programs and services based on identified community needs.

Page updated on Aug 2, 2019 at 6:56 PM

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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 accurate survey with randomly selected households. This information will ensure that the survey results are demographically representative of Alexandria. Additionally, this year's study will solicit feedback through an engagement and mapping tool. Information collected through the website will provide greater detail and site-specific information to supplement the data from randomly selected households. RPCA and NRC will report the results in fall 2019.

The statistically valid results from the summer 2019 survey will be compared to the 2017 Needs Assessment, 2015 Needs Assessment2013 Needs Assessment, and 2011 Needs Assessment results. 


2107 Needs Assessment Results Overview

Each year, the survey questionnaire is tailored to issues of strategic importance to effectively plan the future system. The five-page survey is mailed to a random sample of households in the City of Alexandria. In 2017, completed surveys were returned from 262 of the 2,400 randomly selected households who received invitations to participate, for response rate of 11%. The 95% confidence interval for the survey results is plus or minus 6.1 percentage points.

The following summarizes major 2017 survey findings:

  • About 8 in 10 respondents and/or their household members had visited a City of Alexandria park in the last 12 months.
  • About 2 in 10 had participated in a City sponsored class or program.
  • About 4 in 10 had attended a special event in the last year.
  • Those who had visited a park, participated in a program or attended a special event gave very positive evaluations, with over 80% rating them as excellent or good.
  • The proportion of households using the City’s parks, classes or programs and special events has remained steady since 2011, and the evaluations of them have also remained quite positive.
  • The barrier experienced by the greatest proportion of respondents who had not used a program was not knowing what was being offered, indicated by two-thirds of respondents who had not used a program, while another 20% of those who had not participated in a class or program said they did not know the locations of the facilities.
  • Eight in 10 respondents gave a positive rating to the appearance and condition of public spaces in the City of Alexandria, such as the medians, rights-of-way and street trees.
  • About 7 in 10 respondents were not aware of the City of Alexandria’s public art program. Only 4% considered themselves “very aware” of it.
  • Three-quarters of respondents leaned toward using parks and recreation facilities for quiet relaxation and individual uses, while about a quarter used them for social reasons – to see familiar faces and meet people.
  • Over 9 in 10 survey participants preferred that parks in Alexandria serve passive uses that are open to the whole community rather than active uses such as sports and paid programs requiring user fees.
  • If RPCA would have to make reductions in their budget, respondents had a slight preference that all existing programs and facilities be maintained, but at lower levels of service, favored by 55% of respondents.
  • To gauge the importance placed by residents on various budget priorities, survey participants were given an exercise to allocate $100 hypothetical budget dollars among four potential efforts. On average, the $100 were allocated in the following ways:
    • $41 to improve parks and outdoor recreational facilities and fields
    • $22 for the acquisition of additional parkland and open space
    • $22 to improve indoor recreational facilities, and
    • $15 to develop new recreational facilities.
  • The programs of higher importance with higher unmet need included:
    • Cultural special events,
    • Adult open play,
    • Lap swimming,
    • Adult technology programs, and
    • Youth learn to swim instruction.
  • The facilities of higher importance with higher unmet need included:
    • Biking trails,
    • Outdoor running/walking track,
    • Indoor pools,
    • River/stream activities,
    • Playgrounds, and
    • Outdoor public art.


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