Recreation Preferences

Recreation Preferences Survey

South Whidbey

February 1982


Sponsored by South Whidbey Recreation

Conducted by the Students of the Recreation and Parks program
Western Washington University, under the direction of Dr. Jim Moore



Title: Recreation Preferences Survey - South Whidbey


Authors: Students and Faculty, Recreation and Parks Western Washington University


Goals and Objectives:

To provide information necessary for the responsive provision of recreation services for South Whidbey residents with special attention to:

-           the demand for recreation facilities

-           the desired emphasis of services for specific user groups

-           the demand for recreation programs

-           the priorities among the Alternatives for funding



Data was collected from 270 households in a systematic random sample of residents of the South Whidbey area.

The general findings include:

1) Indoor facilities -strongest interest in a swimming pool, followed by an Auditorium, a teen center, and a gymnasium;

2) Outdoor facilities -strongest interest in softball/ baseball diamonds, followed by jogging, picnicking, and tennis facilities;

3) User groups - An emphasis for services for teenagers, followed by families, elementary age children, adults, and senior citizens;

4) Recreation programs -strongest interest in sports, followed by arts and crafts;

5) Bond Issue - very strong support for bond issue funding within three to five years;

6) Fees - strong support for charging (in order) program fees, facility use fees, and membership fees.



1.         Give serious consideration to construction of a community center which would include n swimming pool, auditorium, teen center, and a gymnasium; racquet courts and other recreational facilities could be included or phased in as funding Allows. If politically feasible, cooperative construction, maintenance and use of certain facilities would reduce costs.

2.         Provide softball and/or baseball diamonds on property adjacent to community center; jogging trails, picnic areas and tennis should also be provided as funding allows. Construction of some outdoor facilities soon would increase the visibility of South Whidbey Recreation and maintain current public support.

*See Findings and Recommendation sections for a full discussion.



  • Recreation and Parks Program
  • Western Washington University
  • Bellingham, Washington
  • Dr. James Moore, Coordinator
  • Joe Roubal
  • University Computer Center


  • Joan Anderson, Project Leader       
  • Hope Borsato, Project Leader   
  • Daryl Bertholet    
  • Laura Brown                                
  • Denise Cox                   
  • Janet Hasselblad   
  • Rick Kanz
  • Theresa Kehrli
  • Kevin McKay
  • Greg Moon
  • Becky Rankin
  • Tracy Slingland
  • Linda Weed



Tim Scriven, President
Tony Schults, Vice President
Jim Porter, Secretary
Steve Shapiro, Treasurer
Scott McNeill Board Member


Pat Eley
Wilma Quintrell


Background and Purposes

South Whidbey Recreation is a non-profit organization developed to promote and provide recreation services to the residents of South Whidbey. The need for such services has long been recognized by concerned citizens, but it has only been within the last year that significant progress has been made toward meeting that need. Subsequent to the formation of the corporation, negotiations were completed with Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Waterman for the donation or a 40-acre building site. Under the conditions of the agreement, title to the land was transferred to the corporation after logging of the site was completed and tax-exempt status has been secured by South Whidbey Recreation. These accomplishments provided a basis for achieving the broader purposes of the corporation.

The initial purposes of the organization, outlined in its by-laws, were to determine the needs of the residents for recreational facilities, to develop a plan for a community center, and to raise funds to cover building costs. The long-range purposes spoke to the provision of diverse activities for the benefit of all the residents of South Whidbey, the development of cooperative relationships with other organizations, the development of sources of revenue and the offering of low or no-cost programs for children and senior adults. The achievement of these goals, required that much more be known about the attitudes and preferences of local residents.

Accordingly, the Recreation and Parks program at Western Washington University was contacted about completing a recreational preferences survey of the people of South Whidbey. The students and faculty agreed to complete the survey to collect the needed information and to provide a report that would enable the orderly and responsive planning for recreation services.

Goals and Objectives

The survey was designed to gather Information about desired recreation programs and facilities. Specifically the survey sought to determine:
1. The priorities among the indoor facilities desired;
2. The priorities among the outdoor facilities desired;
3. The user groups most in need of recreational services;
4. The types of recreation programs most desired;
5. Whether there would be future support for a bond issue to construct facilities;
6. Preferences for funding through fees for facility use; programs or membership.

The cooperative effort between South Whidbey Recreation and Western Washington University was conceived as a public service with the goal of helping to provide the types of recreational opportunities most needed by the people of South Whidbey.

The Study Area*

South Whidbey comprises approximately the lower third (64 square miles) of Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. Estimated based on the 1980 U.S. Census indicate the population of South Whidbey at 8,274 in 1981. Ninety-two percent of the residents live outside the city of Langley (the only incorporated area) in residential, shoreline communities. The inland areas are less developed, except along the state highway.

The Annual average population growth rate is 6.6%. On a seasonal basis summer residents bring a 40% population increase and summer, non resident tourists another 22% increase.

The economy of South Whidbey is much more diverse than the agricultural and forestry base which once predominated. Major industries now include tourism, services to retired residents and recreationists, school and government employment, retail businesses, ship building, home construction, and off-island employment at Boeing Aircraft Company. Approximately 75-80 percent of the land area, however, is still used for agriculture and forestry.

The economic future of the area revolves primarily around the following: the growth of Langley, Bayview, Freeland, and Clinton; the attraction of a larger share of tourist dollars; the location of additional non-polluting light industry for the area; and the increased availability of low and moderate income housing for island residents.

The basic assumptions of the Island County Comprehensive Plan and the Port District Plan for South Whidbey emphasize the attractiveness and livability of the area and the intent to develop an economic base that enhances the quality of life. Recreation and tourism are central to this base.

*Information taken from the Six-Year Comprehensive Plan for the Port District of South Whidbey Island, 1981-87.



Island County Comprehensive Plan - Phase Two

This document provides general policies that apply to the current survey. Each of the policies for population growth, environmental quality, natural resources, economic development, etc. are compatible with the goal for parks, open space and recreation which is to provide ample park and open space amenities to satisfy passive and active recreational needs of all residents" (page xii). The intent of South Whidbey Recreation, as reflected in its by-laws, appears to be in accordance with the Comprehensive Plan in terms of the specific Parks, Open Space and Recreation policies regarding the Planning Program, Variety, School Land, Trails and Facilities.

Six-Year Comprehensive Plan for the Port District of Smith Whidbey Island - 1981-87

This document refers to the importance of recreation and tourism to the economic base of the area, which results primarily from the influx of retirees, commuters and recreation summer home owners. Within its overall authorization related to "harbor improvements," the Port District specifics seven projects directly related to recreation development primarily in the form of parks, marinas, and beeches.

Summary Comment

While the two documents discussed briefly above provide an appropriate planning environment for the recreation facilities and services that South Whidbey Recreation hopes to offer, neither provides information directly related to the current survey. The brand question of what recreation programs and facilities the people of South Whidbey want has yet to be answered. This survey then is a first major step in the recreation planning process applied to a specific Area of South Whidbey and in not building directly on previous survey research.



Questionnaire Development

The survey questionnaire was developed in accordance with standard design procedures (Mail and Telephone Surveys, Don Dillman, 1979). The initial stage of the process was the specifications of survey objectives. These were worked out between the Recreation and Parks students and the Board of Directors of South Whidbey Recreation. The remainder of the process was a series of drafts and revisions of the questions. A copy of the questionnaire can be found in Appendix A.


A systematic random sample was taken from the Whidbey Telephone Directory for South Whidbey. The prefixes 221 and 321 were Sampled because they included all the residents within a reasonable proximity of the proposed development, i.e. prefixes of adjacent, off-island residents were excluded.

Three-hundred and fifty telephone numbers were selected as the sample and an additional 100 numbers were taken as a pool. Replacement numbers were taken from the pool when a sample number was disconnected, the party lived outside the area, or if no contact was made after numerous attempts.

The sample size of 350 was decided upon on the basis of the time and personnel available to do the interviewing and was approximately 4.25% of the overall population of South Whidbey.


An advance letter was mailed to each person in the sample and to the first 75 names in the pool one week prior to the actual interviews. The purpose of the letter was to inform the potential survey respondents of the nature, intent and length or the questionnaire. Telephone interviews were conducted over a three evening period. Calls were made between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. from five business offices in Langley. The typical interview took from between 10 to 20 minutes to complete. Approximately 12 students conducted the interviews over each of three nights. The students were trained in basic interviewing techniques and the specific nature of the study. No personal or demographic information was requested from those interviewed. At the conclusion of the interview, general open-ended comments were also asked for by the Interviewer. This information can be found In Appendix B. An opportunity was provided for the respondents to offer the names and addresses of individuals or organizations who might wish to assist South Whidbey Recreation.


Two hundred and seventy interviews were completed out of the sample size of 350. Deducting the number of people who were non-reachable after numerous attempts (33) from the sample size, leaves a response rate of approximately 85.2%, which is well beyond the typical expectation for this sort of survey. This high rate of response indicates the importance of the subject to the South Whidbey residents and the careful design of the survey project.

Approximately 51 percent of the respondents were female and 49 percent male.


The data were taken from the completed questionnaires and computer analyzed at the Computer center, Western Washington University. The "frequencies" component of the Statistical Packages for the Social Sciences (SPSS) was used to provide a program of simple descriptive statistics, in this case frequencies and absolute and relative percentages. Data was entered using the Remote Job Entry System, rather than key punched cards.



The findings of the study we reported under the topics of:
Indoor Facilities
Outdoor Facilities
User Groups
Recreation Program Categories
Funding for Construction of Facilities
Funding for Operation of Facilities

In each case the specific questionnaire item is the heading for the chart or diagram depicting the results. The results are shown here in the most informative and usable form. The reader may notice that the actual questionnaire (Appendix A) contains more items then are reported here. This is due to the fact that telephone interviewing necessitates the asking of questions with multiple responses in two different ways so that the responses are clearly in mind for the respondent.

The survey questionnaire offered several opportunities for the respondents to make suggestions of their own about facilities, user groups, and programs. These comments can be found in Appendix B.

The interviewers asked for general comments to be passed on to South Whidbey Recreation and for the names and addresses of individuals and organizations that might be interested in assisting in the planning for recreation services. This Information can also be found in Appendix B.


The Findings

It is obvious that there is strong public support for the types of recreation services that South Whidbey Recreation hopes to provide. This support is evidenced not only in the desire for specific facilities and programs for specific segments of the population but in the willingness of the respondents to bear some of the financial burden of providing the services. Desires are inexpensive; actual facilities and programs are not. The highest percentage of support for any part of the survey came in the area of funding.
Bond Issue 71% support
Facility Fees 84% support
Program Fees 89% support
Membership Fees 70% support

The respondents were strongly in favor of sport and athletic programs (49%) They also desired arts and crafts programs (34%). The facilities that were most important to those surveyed fit the sports and athletics category; swimming pool (42%) and ball diamonds (23%). Several other facilities (indoor and outdoor) were favored to a lesser degree:

Jogging Trails 13%
Auditorium 11%
Picnic Areas 10%
Teen Center 10%
Gymnasium 9%
Tennis Courts 9%

Different conclusions can be drawn depending on whether the "most important" or "second most important" results are examined. It will be up to the Board of Directors of South Whidbey Recreation to make the final decisions on the relative importance of particular facilities.

Among the various user groups, teens were felt to he the group that should have the major emphasis in recreation services. The majority of the remaining support was for services to families, elementary age children, adults, and senior citizens.

Other Considerations

The results of this survey are intended to serve the Board of Directors of South Whidbey Recreation and the people of South Whidbey as a basis for the planning for and provision of recreation facilities and services. The actual outcome of these efforts, however, depends on the political, social and economic forces that come to bear on the planning, process. Circumstances change so rapidly that it is often difficult to predict results. It is important to highlight, though, three factors that will likely affect efforts to provide recreation services.


The current local, state, and federal economic situations leave much to be desired. If the economy would pick up, as some predict, then it would obviously be easier for individuals and organizations to bear the expense of constructing, staffing and maintaining recreation facilities. An economic upswing would reduce unemployment, increase the availability of low and middle income housing, and encourage an increase in tourism dollars in South Whidbey. Each of these would, in turn, provide a stronger economic environment for recreation development.

If the economy does not improve significantly, it is still very possible that South Whidbey could have the recreation facilities it desires. There appears to be broad, grass roots support for recreation in the area and if the people want recreation there is no reason why they cannot provide it for themselves, whatever the economic conditions. This line of reasoning is in accord with the message coming from the federal government which is that state and federal dollars will not be available as before and that local citizens and the private sector must fill the financial void. It is possible that South Whidbey could be an example for others to follow in terms of creatively providing local services at a local level.

Another consideration is the proximity of the new high school to the land now owned by South Whidbey Recreation. The opportunity exists, dependent upon local values and the political climate, for the school district and South Whidbey Recreation to cooperatively provide facilities and programs. The shared use of existing school facilities after hours for recreation offerings and/or the shared construction, use, and maintenance of new facilities could result in a maximum of programs for both groups at a minimum of cost. Mutual interest in a swimming pool, an auditorium, a gymnasium, and meeting and arts and crafts rooms offer specific opportunities for cooperation.

One final comment regarding recreation facilities is necessary. A swimming pool is n relatively expensive facility to build, staff and maintain. Pools rarely, if ever, break even financially. It is important, then, in planning for a public pool for South Whidbey, to tie a pool to other recreation offerings that can generate sufficient income to offset the expense of operating a pool. A community center that houses a pool and other recreation facilities is often the route a community takes to be able to offer swimming for the public.



The following recommendations are based on the findings of the study end there is every reason to he confident that the survey results represent the preferences of the people at this time. But the findings should be put in the context of the local attitudes and conditions in South Whidbey. That is, there may be sufficient reason to make planning decisions unrelated to the recommendations. The final responsibility of providing the best possible recreation service rests with South Whidbey Recreation and the people they represent.

1. Indoor Facilities - The greatest demand among all facilities was for a swimming pool. Since a pool is an expensive facility to operate, one of two options are apparent: shared construction, use, operation and maintenance with the school district; or construction of a community center which included other facilities that could generate income to support the pool. The former option can lead to political and management dilemmas unless a management and use agreement is spelled out in detail. The latter option is expensive.

Other options are possible, but must arise As A result of creative, energetic and cooperative efforts.

2. Outdoor Facilities - Softball/baseball diamonds are an obvious preference (as is the case in many areas). Two points are important in regard to these diamonds: 1) other facilities such as jogging trails and picnic areas could be provided adjacent to the diamonds; 2) construction should begin as soon as possible to show that South Whidbey Recreation is taking action and to maintain current public support.

3. User Groups - Any actions taken in providing recreation should be assessed in terms of the benefit to teenagers in the area. Public interest in providing recreation for teenagers was obvious. As soon as funding allows, a center should be provided specifically for teenagers. Recreation programming for this age group is more difficult than any other, so planning should be thorough and inclusive of young people's views.

4. Recreation Programs - Sports programming should be emphasized in terms of facilities and programs; arts and crafts offerings can easily be included in a community center, but these are of secondary importance at this time.

5. Facilities Funding - Vigorous planning, and political activity shou1d be undertaken to take advantage of the strong interest in public funding of facility construction and program development; a bond issue campaign should be prepared, awaiting the hoped for upturn of economy.



Indoor tennis courts (10)
Hobby Shop (7)
Dance studio (5)
Roller skating rink (5)
Senior Center (3)
Multi-purpose studio (3)
Theatre (3)
Community Center (2)
Driftwood Sculpture/ metal shop (2)
Ice skating rink (2)
Indoor riding area (2)
Meeting rooms for intellectual stimulation (2)
Ball field (1)
Bible (1)
Theatre/roller rink (1)
Put Gym & auditorium together (1)
Sewing room (1)
Gym/swim pool (1)
(Similar to Y.M.C.A.)
Volleyball (1)
Pool Hall (1)
Ping Pong, (1)
Picnic shelter (1)
Indoor basketball court (1)
Massage room (1)
Indoor Jogging track (1)
Indoor firearms range. (1)
Library (1)
Garage/car repair (1)
Amateur radio (1)
Handball (1)



Small boat moorage (13) Outdoor swimming pool (1)
(including launches)
Bike [tells (8) Model boat sailing (1)
Golf course (5) Hand gliding site (1)
Fishing/boating (4) Something for kids under 4 (1)
Football field (3) Motorcross track with fees
Archery Field (3) & trophies (1)
Skeet range (3)
Skating area (3)
(Skates and skateboard)
Horseback riding trails (3)
Bandshell/amphitheatre (3)
Covered tennis courts (2)
Trails (2)
Outdoor volleyball (2)
Camping facilities (2)
Beach swimming area (2)
Covered horse area (1)
Gardening facilities (1)
Horseshoe pits (1)
Outdoor track (1)
Agricultural seminars (1)
Access to salt water boat ramps/beach access (1)
Outdoor roller/fee skating with bleachers (1)
Snow skiing (1)


Are there any other user groups that you think should have an emphasis in recreation programs?

Moms and kids (2)

Special interest groups (1)

Kids in trouble (1)

Square dance. (1)

Tourists/campers (1)

Community groups (1)

American Legion B.B. facilities (1)

Church use of baseball fields (1)

Singles (1)

Church groups (1)


Are there any specific recreation programs that you think should be offered?

Swimming lessons/public (14) Walking trails for seniors (1)

Racquetball lessons (3) Hiking trails (1)

Senior citizen services (3) Organized summer programs for kids (1)

Theatre/drama (3) Bible/religion (1)

Dance/jazz classes (3) Pottery class (1)

Volleyball (3) Public auditorium (1)

Soccer (3) Inexpensive golf (1)

Teen programs (2) Year-round arts & crafts (1)

Recreation for handicapped (2) Nutrition/diet (1)

Bowling (2) Community (1)

Fitness (2) Fishing (2)

Spectator sports (2) R.V. Park (1)

Gymnastics (2) Sewing classes (1)

Pool (2) Sign language (1)

Tennis lessons (1) Only through school (1)

Teenage dances (1) Anything not already here (1)

Interpretive programs (1) Emphasis on individual sports (1)

Photography (1) Scuba diving (1)
Square dances (1) Marine activities (1)
Woodworking center (1) Metal work center (1)
Little League (1) Baseball (1)
Football (1)


Are there any comments or suggestions that you would like presented to the Board of Directors of South Whidbey Recreation?

Get with program - avoid tunnel.
Get with It.
Hurry up.
Too long in coming, go to it.
Wonderful gesture, keep going, like your interest, will strengthen community spirit.
Get on with it before summer is gone.
Get it going.
Encourage effort.
Go for the gusto - don't limit yourselves.
Do it now, not five years from now.
Do it quickly without going overboard, work it in conjunction with school district and with Lions; i.e. share costs and expenditures. Also consider community efforts to raise money.
Well worthwhile if this enthusiastic group can get it going. Good luck.
I hope you can get it.
Should address unmet needs of the community such as exercise.
I'm against organized recreation, do it by yourself.
How many people are interested in recreation facilities in this area?
If you use it, you should pay for it; fees dependent on individuals, how rich or poor they are, necessary thing.
Poor shouldn't pay, better off should pay and support facility.
Set up financial, don't make membership, too limited, and open to everybody.
What about kids, people who can’t afford it? Limit user fees, etc. to certain ages, some things should have user fees.
Seniors - costs take into consideration, taxed to death already.
Membership is fine, but would not want to see others excluded.
Need facilities which can be used at little or no expense, i.e. tennis courts. Things the high school doesn't have in quantity. Pool is high priority.



Do you belong to any organization or group that might like to be involved in any future discussion or planning of recreation programs or facilities for South Whidbey?


American Legion - V.F.W.  - Bill Ferry

American Legion - Wally Lehman, Pete Furman

American Legion -  Glen Nichols
3842 S McKay Drive
Langley, WA

Association of Retired Persons  . Dorothy Moore
Winston Hotel

CMA - Christian Ministry - Dick Jeffers

Community Association
(Mutiny Bay)
Vincent Fitzwilliam

Fire Department  - Gary Gabelein
2731 E. North Drive
Clinton, WA 

Fools (Theatre Group) -Bob Sabatini

Holmes Harbor Rod & Gun Club  - Al Puhls
Langley, WA

Whidbey Island Chorale  - Bill Humphreys
736 Edgecliff
Langley, WA

Island Theatre Group - Chuck Whitmore

Kiwanis - Greg Smith - President
(Greg's Rent-A-Tool)

Lutheran Church - Rev. Knudsen
Clinton, WA

Rebekkah Lodge -  Bonnie Ames
4683 S. Tompkins Rd, Freeland, WA 98249

Night Crawlers (Garden Club) - Virginia Bloom
3458 S. Swede HilI Road 

Garden Club - Ruth Johnson
6576 S. Sills Rd  

Garden Club - Mrs.Walter

Bob Higbee
7250 S Humphrey Road, Clinton

Progressive Club - Rob Watkins

Craig Reams
5109 S. Maxwelton Rd.

Raymond Ridgeway
1678 E. Vinton Avenue
Freeland, WA 

Saratoga Community Club  - Mr. Tuttle

Senior Citizens Center Bayvlew 

North Star Youth Service Bureau
Judy McKenzie and Peggy Brown

PTA - Langley PTA - Frank Sullivan

J. Poolman
7231 S. Cultus Bay Rd.

South Whidbey Assembly of God - Gareth Forney
5396 South Cameron Road

Useless Bay Golf & Country Club
R.P. Ummel
221 E. Fox Spit Drive
Langley, WA

V.F.W.  - John Petro
1225 E. Bush Point Rd.
Freeland, WA

Women's Aglow Fellowship Volleyball Group
South Whidbey  - Ann Taylor



American Legion
Wally Lehman, Pete Furman

Mr. & Mrs. Arnold
5300 S. Diana Bond
Langley, WA

Board of Senior Services
Marian Howe, Chairperson
P.O. Box 553
Freeland, WA

Citizens for Intelligent Growth
Mary Ann Beck

Eastern Star
(St. Peters Lutheran) Marge Jones

Fire Department
Bruce Clausen, acting chief

Fools (Theatre Group)
Bob Sabatini

Island Arts Council
Richard Proctor
Box 458
Langley, WA

Island Players
Langley, WA

Island Theatre Group - Chuck Whitmore

Langley Masonic Lodge

Greg Mend
1516 JoAnn Drive
Langley, WA

Garden Club - Mrs.Walter
P.O. Box 442

House of Prayer (Church)
Owen Baldwin
5426 S. Wilkensen Rd

J.R. Rasmussen

Leslie Reeks
5786 S. 1st

Matthew Rimstad
1936 S. Newman Rd.
Freeland, WA

Senior Center
Jo Grifmire

Don Shouse
1827 E. Saratoga Avenue

North Star Youth Service Bureau
Judy McKenzie and Peggy Brown

Linda Iverson
4196 E. Timberline
Clinton, WA

Ethel Goldsmith
4918 S. Anderson Rd.

South Whidbey Athletic Assoc.

Trinity Lutheran Church - Mr. Dyer

Washington House Realty - Jim Bailey

Volleyball Group - Terry Williamson