(Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

Petersburg’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board last week reviewed responses to a recent community survey on hours of operation, programs and suggested changes. The department is hoping to seek more public input on a regular basis.

The survey was available on Facebook and by hard copy at the community gym in March. It asked for feedback on hours, trails, playgrounds and improvements people would like to see. Parks and Rec director Stephanie Payne told the board there were not big surprises in the answers.

“I think one of the things that always cracks me up, it doesn’t really surprise me though is that the number of things that people think of as ours that isn’t ours,” Payne said. “Like somebody mentioned somebody mentioned something about Blind Slough. I live there but I don’t manage that. But that kind of stuff, there’s more of that kind of stuff than anything, it kind of cracks me up. A lot of things that were in that survey I’ve heard before to a certain extent.”

Staff compiled the responses for the advisory board to review. It saw over 120 people responding to some of the questions. And the feedback was not overwhelming in favor of keeping the community gym and pool open on Sundays or holidays. That was a surprise for board member Stephanie Hayes.

“Then let’s not use the limited resources we have when we didn’t have an outstanding result of response saying we want it open on Sundays or holidays while we have such little resources, let’s use it to other things,” Hayes said, adding, “That’s how I read that.”

The facility could be opened on those off days with just one staffer. But director Payne said it’s more important to have that person working on a busy Saturday.

“Saturday when we start really getting busy and doing birthday parties and things, it gets busy,” Payne said. “There’s a lot of kids here. So it’s a lot to maintain, a lot to watch for. We have bounce castles to put up things like that. That’s a two-person job, any of those bounce castles are a two person job.”

People responding to the survey were somewhat supportive of a multi-use outdoor turf field if the borough can find funding for that. Comments on COVID mitigation ranged from requests to get rid of face covering requirements to wishing enforcement of masking and distancing was better.

The survey asked for ideas for improvements or changes for the local trail system. Some suggested new trails from Severson subdivision to Haugen Drive, or from the Hungry Point system to Sandy Beach, or completing the trail between Sandy Beach and City Creek.

Board member Malena Marvin talked about what stood out for her.

“There’s some really interesting feedback in this survey, like I haven’t thought about that there’s no playgrounds on the Severson’s end of things, a couple people mentioned that,” Marvin noted. “A lot of people mentioned the sauna and the weight room, lot of love for the weight room, some tangible suggestions for different things so that was cool to see. Several people mentioned the ellipticals, people love ellipticals.”

And director Payne noted that customers like the spread out weight room equipment.

“People are loving the way that it is spread out between the two rooms right now and I think it works beautifully, everybody loves it,” Payne said. “It’s going to be hard to move that back so. Overall, just increasing the footprint of this place is pretty high on my list to be able to create more space like that. That is one of the most well-used rooms definitely.”

People responding also asked for more programs for both kids and adults and noted that instructors and volunteers have been discouraged from offering classes. Commenters also called for better restroom access and improved cleaning and maintenance of existing spaces.

Board members wanted better outreach to let people know the survey was happening and had hoped the survey would be on another online platform besides Facebook.

Payne said she wanted to do surveys regularly. She also wants to make customer suggestion cards available.

The borough facilities have been open for free use during the pandemic but that changes for adults June 1st. A new fee structure approved by the borough assembly earlier this year continues that free use for people 18 and under. Paid use resumes for adults with a simplified and in most cases reduced fee schedule for people using the gym and pool.