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Needs Assessment Survey

The County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) conducts a needs assessment survey every 5 years to help us understand trends within the community– giving us insight on what amenities can be improved, and what we should plan for in the future.


In 2020, DPR completed a needs assessment survey to gauge awareness of, access to, and opportunities for new parks, facilities and service offerings. The survey was designed to build upon  previous surveys conducted in 2010 and 2015, with new questions to better address needs like communication, accessibility and to incorporate new industry trends.  

The County-wide survey was distributed two ways; via general population sample arranged through a company that pulled a random sample of San Diego County households; and through open link which was promoted on DPR’s web and social media channels. A total of 1,188 general population samples were collected, along with 1,062 open link surveys – each group analyzed separately and then together to identify overarching needs.   

Survey response demographics were compared to U.S. Census data to ensure they represented the San Diego County population (per the most recent 2018 Census data). For the purposes of this survey, general population responses were reweighted to represent San Diego’s Hispanic/Latino population more accurately, but overall, the data tracked when it came to age and race. However, it should be noted that survey data overrepresents gender on behalf of females (details in the last dot point).

Among key findings:

  • Top-wished amenities included restrooms (87%), hiking and nature trails (79%) and picnic tables (76%). 
  • Respondents seem relatively happy with restrooms (58%), picnic areas (58%), nature and hiking trails (55%), play areas in open fields (55%), and playgrounds (54%) – showing we are meeting those needs – but because they are top of mind to our customers, they should remain a focal point. Opportunities for expansion and improvement, where needs are not fully being met, include fitness centers and outside fitness equipment (36%), community gardens (35%), bird/butterfly gardens (25%), and native plant and botanical gardens.
  • Regarding programs, respondents stated they most enjoyed general education classes (cooking, computers, etc.) (64%), cultural events and festivals(63%), and indoor and outdoor fitness classes (60%). They expressed interest in adding more interpretive hikes (31%), virtual classes/camps/meet-ups (31%) and nighttime events and activities (27%). 
  • Most important future needs varied among respondents, but items at the top of the list, overall, included park safety and security, followed by park maintenance and repairs.
  • Respondents were 61% female and 37% male – many with kids at home (39%) but also quite a few without (43%). Sixty-seven percent were white, followed by 14% undisclosed, 14% Asian, 6% Black, 4% American Indian and 2% Pacific Islander. Comparatively, the U.S. Census data shows the San Diego population to be 75% white, 14% Asian, 7% some other race, 6% Black, 2% American Indian and 1% Pacific Islander.   

In open comments we learned that there is still considerable misunderstanding of County properties and programs versus those being offered by other jurisdictions. Respondents also reiterated a need for more communications, more often, in more places (to include both modern and traditional media).

Taking all of this into consideration, and the full breadth of the comprehensive report, we will revisit our Strategic Plan and Strategic Marketing Plan, embarking on new projects, programs and partnerships in the new year and over the next 5 years as we continue to work to provide exceptional park experiences with residents and tourists alike.  

Link to full report: coming soon.

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