2020 Survey Findings
Highlights & Historic Comparisons
2020 COMMUNITY ATTITUDE & INTEREST SURVEY REVEALS VISITORS GREATLY APPRECIATE MCHENRY COUNTY’S SITES & TRAILS
As we near the end of a very strange summer, we take this time to reflect on how nature has nurtured our communities back to health. McHenry County has natural treasures and breathtakingly beautiful landscapes which add to our health and economic vitality. From the beginning of the pandemic, outdoor activity was deemed a necessity for maintaining our physical and mental health—a nature prescription of sorts. Conservation areas and trails remained open to go, be healthy, and get outdoors. Visitors cherished the opportunity to get outside to hike, bike, paddle, camp, and view wildlife.
Prior to the pandemic, the Conservation District contracted with aQity Research & Insights of Evanston, IL to complete a Community Attitude and Interest Survey that occurred between February 7 and March 10, 2020. The survey concluded what hundreds of thousands of visitors have certainly realized over the past six months, McHenry County’s conservation areas are loved and appreciated.
The survey results revealed that in terms of overall esteem, the Conservation District received favorable ratings from two-thirds (66%) of respondents, where notably 30% who hold the Conservation District in the highest regard.
The goal of the survey was to receive at least 400 completed responses. Instead, the survey generated a much higher response rate than expected. The final count of 666 respondents came in roughly 67% higher than the target quota.
The public’s response to preserve open space, protect wildlife habitat and restore natural areas received overwhelming support from site users. The overall satisfaction of conservation areas ranked high, whereby 88% of respondents indicated they were “very to completely satisfied” with their experiences they had with McHenry County Conservation District. Visitors also gave high marks (8.2 on a 10 point scale) to accessibility, cleanliness and upkeep, and overall safety. No age group rates the District unfavorably.
The survey further identified and prioritized the most important goals for the District to focus on. These were (in order or importance): maintain existing sites, trails and facilities; preserve and restore wildlife habitat; protect watersheds (quality and flood control); provide outdoor classrooms; purchase and protect open space; and provide trails, fishing access and other outdoor recreational opportunities.
Of the Conservation District’s 35 sites that are open to the public, survey respondent’s favored sites come as no surprise, citing Glacial Park, The Hollows, and the Prairie Trail, followed by the Nippersink Canoe Trail as their top destinations. By far, the biggest barrier to visiting a conservation area was indicated as due to lack of time (cited by 48% of non-users). Perhaps in the past several months, one positive from the pandemic is that our residents have taken the opportunity to change that statistic and visit and appreciate their local natural areas and wide open spaces for play and restorative healing effects, as staff has witnessed triple the amount of typically use of Conservation District sites.
As the Conservation District approaches its 50th anniversary, we applaud the foresight of our founding members and the McHenry County voters who made it a priority to invest in parks, and regional trails, which is proving to be an invaluable investment that is paying off in dividends. McHenry County Conservation District is in the business of improving lives and hopefully, this pandemic will awaken each of us to reaffirm our commitment to be guardians and stewards of our natural world.
- Yours in Conservation, Elizabeth S. Kessler, MBA, CPRE — Executive Director