South Dakota City Invests Big in Recreation Surveys

Sioux Falls, S.D., recreation officials are allocating $21,000 for a citywide survey designed to gauge residents' collective interest in recreation opportunities. And if history is any indication, the expense can be viewed as an important investment in a range of future recreation programs and facilities.

According to Sioux Falls survey in 2000 led the department to make widely favored upgrades to the city's parks and recreation infrastructure. For example, after residents said they wanted more adult evening recreation opportunities, the city created a kickball league, which now has approximately 135 teams.

The 2000 survey also led the department to focus on upgrades to its existing sports fields and bike paths. "We really used it a lot," recreation department director Don Kearney said of the survey, according to an Argus Leader report.

But the first survey also illustrated that although residents may desire certain recreation options, that doesn't necessarily mean they're ready and willing to pay for them. A vast majority of respondents in 2000 said they wanted in indoor recreation center. But when faced with a referendum five years later that would have provided funding for one, they "shot it down in a blaze of glory," as city councilor Michelle Erpenbach put it.

The council is mailing 6,000 four-page recreation surveys to different areas and demographics throughout the city of approximately 158,000 people. The 2000 survey yielded a 17 percent response rate.

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