Is the Driver for Park Bond and Park Planning
In February 2004, the Park Authority Board was presented with a 10-year capital improvements plan (CIP) that identifies and prioritizes near, intermediate and long-term park improvements needed through 2013. The foundation for the plan was a needs assessment process that took the pulse of Fairfax County residents.
It was a massive undertaking. Beginning in 2002 and assisted by a nationally recognized consulting team that included Leon Younger and Pros, Leisure Vision and Woolpert LLP, we interviewed stakeholders, held focus groups and collected public comment at forums held across the county and through the Park Authority's web site. We surveyed nearly 1,700 randomly selected households to get a statistically valid reading of the county's recreation participation patterns and unmet park and recreation needs. In addition, we benchmarked the composition of our park system with similar communities such as Montgomery County, Maryland, and did a resource management "best practices" study so the Park Authority Board could see how Fairfax County compares with its peers.
The complete Needs Assessment Final Report is available online, but a few points are worth noting.
- First, the park system is extensively used - eight of every 10 households have visited a Fairfax County park in the past year.
- The broad variety of recreational activities is mind-boggling. County residents devote more than one million days annually to participation in the 17 activities included on the needs assessment survey. The list covers the entire recreational spectrum, from fitness activities at RECenters to use of trails, from athletic pursuits to visiting historic sites.
- Finally, the parks and recreation needs of the community are extensive - amounting to $376 million over the next 10 years for new facilities, renovation of existing parks and land acquisition and preservation.
- Bottom line - the study tells us that the residents of Fairfax County desire a balanced park system that is self-sustaining and sensitive to open space preservation and addresses the totality of their recreation needs.
The new capital improvements plan for parks puts the Park Authority at the vanguard in meeting County Executive Tony Griffin's request that all agencies develop needs-based capital programs. Also, the customized data from the needs assessment will guide both the development of the Park Authority's long-term financial plans and the investigation of alternative funding sources that lessen reliance on tax dollars. In addition, it will steer site-specific park master planning, the Park Authority's strategic plan and future amendments to the county's comprehensive plan, which provides the basis for proffer negotiations with developers.