Results of the open space and recreation survey conducted by the Marion Open Space Acquisition Commission have been released, and the results clearly show that Marion residents love to walk. In fact, 143 of the 169 residents who filled out the survey between the fall of 2017 and the winter of 2018 shared that they would like to see more places to do so, as well as more permanently preserved open space – and that they are willing to pay for it.
“Marion folks walk, a lot,” said MOSAC Chairman John Rockwell in a follow-up email with The Wanderer. “They want places to walk without getting run over – that’s bike paths, sidewalks, and trails. They also see the harbor as a huge open space asset and are concerned about the water quality in the harbor.”
According to the survey results, those who want more open space acquisitions outnumber those who don’t by a significant margin: 8-1. And those willing to pay for it outnumber those who don’t by 7-1.
The 25-question survey was sent to 369 residents selected randomly from the registered voters list through a process explained in the introduction to the results report. Of those 369 surveys, 169, or 46 percent, were returned.
A summary of the survey results shows that residents believe open space should be a requirement of all subdivision plans, and at least 25 percent of Community Preservation Act funds should go towards open space. And as for Marion’s marine resources, residents think the biggest threat is pollution from runoff.
The results list the top five responses from multiple choice questions. For outdoors activities families enjoy most, walking ranked number 1 followed by (in descending order) “enjoying the view,” swimming, sunbathing, and biking. But when it came to which of those activities residents and their families actually domost often, walking ranked first, followed by swimming, golfing, biking, and walking in the woods.
But what does Marion need more of in town? Respondents say they want more: 1. Bike paths; 2. Sidewalks; 3. Permanently protected open space; 4. Wildlife habitat; and 5. “quiet seashore.” But the questions also asked residents what they would like to see less of, or the same amount of around town. Eleven want fewer golf courses, nine want fewer boat moorings, and a handful of others want fewer boat ramps, tennis courts, and other sports facilities such as basketball courts and baseball fields. And, in ranking order, residents prefer to keep the same amount of golf courses, schoolyard playgrounds, ball fields, general playgrounds, and boat ramps.
Other questions asked which of the existing amenities need upgrading or repair in various areas of Marion. Town-to-town bike paths were given top priority for expansion, followed by sidewalks and the senior center.
Support for spending taxpayer money for bike paths topped the list, followed by the senior center and, again, sidewalk expansion.
One hundred and nineteen residents say they are “satisfied” with the current recreation offerings in Marion.
When asked what they deem most important in recreation/open space, respondents said
harbor water quality was most important, followed by water/beach access, quiet seashore, and preservation of wooded areas.
Some questions pertaining to zoning and development show residents are into allowing so-call “cluster zoning” for housing while favoring a more robust open space requirement for such developments.
Some 130 out of the 169 residents who returned their surveys either strongly agree or agree that the Town should set aside funding to identify and preserve environmentally sensitive areas in Marion. Only one of them “strongly” disagreed.
“Since my involvement with open space issues, I have noticed a disconnect with the wishes of the Marion voters as expressed in the surveys and the actions by the decision makers in Town House,” Rockwell said.
In more essay-style open response question asking residents to rank the top three most important issues facing Marion, planning received the most comments, 66, which ranged from development size, volume, to controlling growth while making commercial development easier. One responded, saying, “Too few people think long term and about the overall well being of the Town. Individuals are focused on their own agendas, not for what is good for all, whether it is open space, affordable housing, commercialdevelopment or other issues. We are good at planning and lousy at holding planners accountable. Master Plans mean nothing unless there is a way of measuring progress.”
Transportation received the second highest number of responses that had sidewalks mentioned most often, followed by road maintenance and the bike path, with many mentions of traffic.
Coming in third for most comments was the environment, with most remarks pertaining to water pollution, pollution in general, and water quality. It is clear, however, that residents are concerned about open space and preservation, and view wastewater treatment as one of the top five issues affecting the town, with taxes/finance and affordability ranking sixth.
MOSAC will use the results when considering future land purchases and also to provide direction while developing a new Open Space and Recreation Plan.The commission conducted surveys with similar questions back in 1994, 2004, and 2012, so the 2017 report also includes information from the 1994, 2004, and 2012 survey for context.
“I’ve been involved with the Open Space and Recreation Surveys since 1994,” said Rockwell. “We did a survey that year, and in 2004 and 2011, and I am gratified by the response we get each time. It’s important to the Open Space Acquisition Commission that we hear from a cross section of Marion residents – as opposed to our day-to-day contact with our friends. We base our decisions on the results of these surveys, so the results are so important to us.”
By Jean Perry