Message from the Director
DEAR BILLINGS RESIDENTS:
The City of Billings has hired PROS Consulting, Inc. in 2016 to assist staff in updating the community’s parks, recreation and open space comprehensive plan. Comprehensive parks and recreation planning determines and establishes specific short-and long-term strategies on how agencies can meet the recreation and park needs of its citizens; it establishes priorities for parkland acquisition and development, facility management, coordination with other public and private entities, and the provision of recreation services.
A major part of the master planning process included working with ETC Institute (PROS’s sub consultant), to design and administer a statistically valid community survey. This survey was tailored to the issues of strategic importance to effectively plan and manage Billings parks and recreation system. The seven-page survey was mailed to a random sample of households in the City of Billings. Five-hundred and five surveys were completed by these households. The completed surveys provided us a 95% level of confidence with a precision of +/-4.1%.
The following summarizes some of the major survey findings:
- We found that 86% of the households in Billings visited a park in the past 12 months. Park visitation in Billings is 7% percent higher than the national benchmark of 79%.
- 23% of the households in Billings who visited a park in the past 12 months rated the overall condition at the park as excellent. Billings is 8% under the national benchmark of 31%.
- 60% of the households in Billings used the trail system in the last 12 months. The National benchmark for trail usage in a community is 79%. Billings is 19% under the national benchmark.
- 24% of Billings households, that used our trail system during the last 12 months rated the trail’s overall condition to be excellent. The National Benchmark for excellent is 31%.
- The top three reasons that keep households from visiting our parks are: 1. distance from residence, 2. not aware of parks or trails locations, and 3. don’t feel safe using parks/facilities.
- According to this survey trails and neighborhood parks are the most important facilities to Billings residents. The importance of trails in Billings is 12% over the National Benchmark of 42%.
- Only 11% of the households in Billings have participated in recreation programs. 34% is the national benchmark for participation. We believe that this is much lower due to the lack of indoor recreation facilities in Billings.
- The top two reasons households didn’t participate in recreation programs during the last 12 months were: 1. too busy, 2. unaware of programs offered.
- 91% of the respondents believe parks and recreation is an essential service.
- 70% of the respondents believe that parks and trails should be smoke free zones.
- 59% of the respondents feel safe in parks and on trails.
- 53% of the respondents believe there is a need for a dedicated park police officer.
- 39% of the respondents believe that cell towers should be located in parks as a way to generate revenue.
- 21% of Billings households are very satisfied with the overall value they receive from the Parks and Recreation Department. The National benchmark is 27%.
- Potential actions that respondents would be most willing to fund are: repair aging neighborhood parks and develop a new indoor recreation/wellness center.
- Level of support for various sources of funding: 47% of the respondents would support increasing City-wide Park District assessment and 36% of the respondents are not sure. 42% of the respondents would support issuing general obligation bonds and 41% is not sure.
- 60% of the respondents would support using Park District #1 funds to build community parks and 24% are not sure.
- 51% of the respondents would support dedicating a certain percentage of a sales tax to fund park improvements and 22% are not sure.
The next steps in this process includes: evaluating the level of service, equity mapping, program and facility assessments, developing a framework in evaluating capital improvement projects, and updating City and Department Policies. We hope to have our plan completed by the summer of 2017.
Michael Whitaker, CPRP
Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Director