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E.L. parks survey: 85 percent of residents happy with city's efforts

March 27, 2019
<p>Pictured is the Valley Court Park located at 300 Valley Court in East Lansing. </p>

Pictured is the Valley Court Park located at 300 Valley Court in East Lansing.

Photo by Sylvia Jarrus | The State News

East Lansing is a great place to play and relax, according to a large percentage of its residents.

A survey with 207 participants — 91 percent of whom were East Lansing residents — detailed their thoughts on the East Lansing Department of Parks, Recreation & Arts’ handling of its duties.

The survey found 83 percent of residents believe the department is generally headed in the right direction and 85 percent believe a positive job is being done.

Department director Tim McCaffrey said the results are a sign the city is doing a good job in supplying services to and responding to the desires of city residents.

“I think what that suggests is we appear to be listening to the community; we appear to be trying to fill the needs of the community with respect to our parks and recreation services,” McCaffrey said.

Still, he said the department is not satisfied with the results.

“You know that you’re at 83 percent — I think that’s great, but it gives us a benchmark by which we can evaluate and see if we can keep those 83 percent happy and see if we can get even more folks happy,” McCaffrey said.

The results showed about seven in 10 residents believe there are enough parks in the city and think East Lansing residents participate in recreational activities provided by the city.

While residents are generally pleased, there are still improvements they would like to see. For example, 57 percent said they wanted more trails.

“That doesn’t surprise me at all,” McCaffrey said. “Pretty much every time we talk to the community about their thoughts on our trails, almost everyone says, ‘Yeah, we’d like to have more access to trails.”

He said he interprets this as the people wanting more connections to existing trails. Examples include the Northern Tier Trail, which could be connected to the Lansing River Trail, or a connection between East Lansing and Meridian Township.

Participants also noted the facilities they desired to see in the coming years, including new fitness centers, an indoor walking track and playground and new soccer turfs, among other projects.

McCaffrey noted while there are available facilities in the city, many are located in public school gymnasiums or at MSU, which are often in use for school events and programs.

On the topic of funding, 51 percent said most or all parks and recreation funding should come from tax dollars. Twenty percent said it should come from user fees and 22 percent said it should come from some combination of the two.

All parks and trails are currently funded through the city's general fund. Recreation facilities are funded through a combination of user fees and taxpayer dollars.

New facilities would require “significant capital investment,” McCaffrey said, and the community would have to decide if they would want to support the increased investment if that path was chosen.

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