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Community survey shows highest marks ever for Naperville Park District

A recent community survey revealed good news for the Naperville Park District, but room for improvement remains.

While the overall marks were the highest for the park district since it began tracking an “esteem rating” in 2009, respondents offered plenty of advice, as they continue to return to parks, trails and facilities at rates close to pre-pandemic levels.

“A lot of great information that we’re going to be able to use in the coming months as we look to update our master plan and get ready for the development of the strategic plan this fall,” said park district executive director Brad Wilson.

More than 1,000 community members responded to the survey — the park district’s first since 2017 — that was conducted online, through the mail and by phone. The park district scored an overall positivity mark of 8.4 out of 10, which is its highest score in four surveys dating back to 2009.

Respondents especially favored the park district’s programs and events, in addition to the parks and trails. But those also are areas community members wanted to see more resources devoted. Requests for additional youth and pre-K programs were highlighted by Jeff Andreasen of aQity Research and Insights, which conducted the survey.

“There was a lot of responses about more programming or opportunities for pre-K programs,” Andreasen said. “There aren’t enough of them. They fill up too quickly. They’re having trouble registering for the programs, and so on.”

Of the 97% of respondents who said they’d used park district facilities in the last two years, 83% said they’d visited the Riverwalk. In a potential “post-COVID” future, 53% of respondents said they’d increase their usage of outdoor facilities while 35% said they’d increase usage of indoor facilities.

More than 65% of respondents were willing to pay higher fees or higher taxes for various reasons, including a new recreation facility in south Naperville, a new indoor pool or the purchase of additional property to provide more parks and facilities.

Andreasen, though, said the numbers indicating a willingness to spend more money should be viewed with caution.

“I guarantee if you put any of these on a referendum, you would not see that level of support,” he said. “It’s going to depend on the scope, where it is, how accessible it is, what the costs are, what else is going on.”

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