Survey says: Trails, parks top recreational priorities for Signal Hill residents

City conducting study to gather feedback and determine recreational needs of community.


Courtesy GreenPlay LLC

Maps created by open-space consulting firm GreenPlay LLC show Signal Hill park acreage accessible by a five-minute bicycle ride and a 10-minute walk.

Fitness opportunities– particularly from walking trails and parks– have emerged as the highest priorities for respondents in a recent survey commissioned by the Signal Hill Community Services Department to ascertain the community’s needs regarding recreational activities.

During a community meeting in the council chamber at City Hall Monday night, representatives from two consulting firms that were hired to collect and assess data for a parks-and-recreation master plan shared their findings thus far.

Tom Diehl, project consultant for GreenPlay LLC– a parks, recreation and open-space consulting firm based in Colorado– has been serving as project manager for the undertaking, and he led the presentation Monday evening.

Diehl was joined by Art Thatcher, a principal at GreenPlay, and Michael Singleton, senior principal with KTUA, a planning and landscape-architecture firm based in San Diego.

The purpose of the study is to gather community feedback on the city’s parks and recreation facilities, amenities, future planning, communication and more, according to the consultants. The survey and its subsequent analysis were designed to assist city officials in developing a plan to reflect residents’ needs and desires.

Diehl explained that Monday’s community meeting is part of a master-plan process that has included a “strategic kick-off,” an inventory and analysis of the city’s parks, focus groups and stakeholder meetings.

“We took all of that information, and we shared it with our survey firm– RRC Associates– and they helped us put together a survey, which was reviewed and approved by the City,” he said. “We sent out the survey. We did a demographic and trends study. We’re finishing up the needs-assessment part of our project. We’re in the findings stage, so we’re reporting what we’ve heard in the way of findings.”
Diehl mentioned that the following day, he and his team would be participating in a “visioning session” with City staff to develop some preliminary recommendations based on recurring themes that have emerged from the survey results.

“After that, we will get our report written up together, and we’ll share it with the project team from the City and get their feedback,” he said. “And, when it’s to the point that it’s accepted as a draft, we’ll come back and present that. Again, that would be presented to the city council and as a public meeting.”

Diehl shared a breakdown of the demographics of the survey’s respondents, first in terms of length of residency: 17.6 percent of participants have lived in Signal Hill less than five years; 13.7 percent have resided in the city between five and nine years; 13.7 percent have lived in the city for 10 to 15 years; 13.7 have called the city home for 16 to 19 years; 35.3 percent have lived in the city for 20-plus years; and 6 percent of respondents are not residents of Signal Hill but use its facilities and services.

He also provided information about the city’s residents in terms of age, education, income and number of households.

Signal Hill’s median age is 37.2. Forty-one percent have a bachelor’s or post-graduate degree, 30 percent have attended some college, 15 percent have only a high-school diploma and 15 percent did not graduate from high school, according to Diehl, who acknowledged that the figures had been rounded.

There are 4,386 households, and the median household income is $77,411. The per-capita income is $40,431.

The city’s population grew by 0.87 percent between 2010 and 2018. By comparison, the country’s and state’s populations grew by 0.81 percent, whereas the county’s population only grew by 0.57 percent during that same time period.

Signal Hill’s population in 2018 was 11,828, but it is expected to climb to 13,043 by the year 2032.

In sharing a generational breakdown, Diehl said Millennials– those born between 1981 and 1998– make up the largest segment of the city’s population, at 25.46 percent. Next is Generation Z, born between 1999 and 2016, at 23.07 percent, followed by Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, at 22.35 percent. Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, constitute 21.24 percent of the city’s population. The Silent/Greatest Generation forms 5.25 percent of the population, and Generation Alpha, those born in 2017 or later, make up 2.68 percent of the population.

Regarding racial/ethnic diversity, 39.69 percent of the city’s population is white, 32.81 percent is Hispanic, 22.56 percent is Asian, 12.81 percent is black/African-American, 1.24 percent is Pacific Islander, 6.21 percent identifies as having two or more races, and 16.77 percent identifies as “other race.”

The city has 1,168 total businesses with 12,888 employees.

Regarding the most popular outdoor recreational behaviors, 16 percent participate in hiking, 15 percent in running/jogging, 12 percent in roadway bicycling, 9 percent in golf, 7 percent in canoeing/kayaking, 6 percent in freshwater fishing, 5 percent in saltwater fishing and 5 percent in mountain biking.

Walking emerged as the most common form of exercise among the city’s residents, at 26 percent, followed by: swimming, at 18 percent; weight training, at 13 percent; yoga, at 12 percent; aerobics, at 9 percent; Zumba, at 5 percent; and pilates, at 4 percent.

One question the survey posed is: How familiar are you and your household with parks and recreation programs, activities and facilities provided by the City of Signal Hill? With a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “not at all familiar” and 5 being “very familiar,” 12 percent marked 1; 22 percent chose 2; 29 percent selected 3; 22 percent chose 4; and 16 percent marked 5.

Another question asked was: In the past 12 months, how frequently have you and/or a member of your household used or participated in the following recreation facilities and/or programs managed by the City of Signal Hill? City parks received the highest usage, at 91 percent, followed closely by walkways and trails, at 89 percent. Special events, such as concerts in the park, received 57 percent. Library events/programs garnered 37-percent usage, the dog park received 25 percent, and active-adult and family excursions got 22 percent.

The survey also asked respondents about barriers to participating in the programs the City offers, and the top two answers given were: “no time or other personal reasons” and “not aware of the services offered.”

Regarding satisfaction with services or amenities offered, the areas that garnered the highest ratings were walkways and trails, City-sponsored special events and open grass at city parks.

Participants were also asked to rate the importance of various services or amenities, and the highest-ranking items were: city parks, walkways and trails, fitness/wellness and special events.

One area respondents indicated as lacking was the need to connect trails with parks.

However, according to the consultants’ analysis of access to parks, residents are able to get to those areas rather easily overall.

In discussing the city’s park system, Singleton showed two maps of the city and where those open spaces are. One map highlighted parks that are accessible by a five-minute bike ride, and another illustrated those that are accessible by a 10-minute walk.

“If you look at it from the number of parks that you have, you’re actually within five minutes [of bike riding to] eight parks, which is a very, very high number,” Singleton said. “Most cities don’t have anywhere near that. You have a very well distributed park system, from that standpoint.”