Parks survey to see what gets Wrangell out

A survey being put out by Wrangell’s Parks Department will be digging into the community’s recreational priorities in the coming years.

“With the current climate of our state economy and the increasing demand for our current facilities, we need to prioritize our tasks and goals,” explained department director Kate Thomas.

She said a system-wide needs assessment would help the department focus in on what residents like – what parks they frequent, which trails they climb, the amenities they would like to see – beyond the programs and more easily gauged usage at the community center gym and pool. The aim is to get input from residents who might not be usual users of the department’s assets, which go beyond parks and trails but include things like ballfields and the city shooting range

“We’re trying to target beyond that,” said Thomas. A survey had been previously put out by the department back in October 2015, but had been more narrowly interested in feedback on the Tot Gym program. Thomas said the more wider ranged survey was a new approach for them.

At the community health fair on April 1, attendees browsing the Parks and Rec booth took part in a simple questionnaire, but could also make use of an interactive needs graph that let the department know what they would like to see more of. That addition followed the recommendation of the Park Board, whose member Alice Rooney at its last meeting had suggested the interactivity.

Thomas said the booth yielded a strong response. “There were quite a number of people that I’ve never seen before,” she added, referring to gym and pool members. As of the beginning of April, she reported the community center having 284 members with accounts.

Since a fee schedule hike was instituted in September 2015, Thomas said membership has about stayed the same. Currently the department does not have attendance or usage figures available from before the rate schedule change.

“I can tell you that I’ve personally seen the attendance ebb and flow as it normally does,” she said. The change in rates had been intended to bring Wrangell’s fee structure more in line with regional standards, and to have Parks and Rec programs share a larger portion of their cost.

The discontinuation of a corporate rate discount – which had been scaled based on number of employees, disproportionately discounting memberships to the largest employers – seems not to have had much impact either, she said. Employers like Wrangell Medical Center, Bobs’ IGA, SEARHC, Alaska Vistas, and Alaska Waters have continued to buy passes for their employees on their own, even without the discount.

“So we’ve still seen a number of businesses,” Thomas pointed out.

In addition to the booth-based survey there is an online form people can fill out, hosted on do-it-yourself poll site Wrangell Parks and Recreation’s questionnaire can be found at

“So far we’ve gotten 87 participants,” Thomas said Friday.


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