June 9, 2011 |

Survey: Rec center wanted most

Survey results presented at Friday’s Haines Borough comprehensive plan town hall meeting showed strong support for a community recreation center, road maintenance and improvement and Small Boat Harbor upgrades.

"When we have elections in town, the community is split right down the middle," said resident Thad Stewart. "The survey, to me, says that maybe we can find a lot of these solutions as a community and we aren’t as split as we appear."

More than 70 residents attended the meeting at the fairgrounds. Last updated in 2004, the comprehensive plan will map out Haines’ future, said Barbara Sheinberg, a Juneau consultant coordinating the project.

The average age of survey respondents topped 50 in a scientific survey of adults from about 200 randomly-selected households, but Sheinberg said the findings were quite similar to a youth survey of 80 high school students.

"What you often don’t hear from is the people who kind of don’t have a strong opinion or don’t want to come to a meeting for one reason or another, and it can be hard to find out what the majority thinks," Sheinberg said.

The adults showed 90 percent support for road improvements in the borough.

Repair to the Chilkat Center and Small Boat Harbor in the existing basin drew 75 percent support.

Converting the old elementary gymnasium into a recreation center with multi-purpose rooms had 71 percent in favor and 23 percent opposed.

Adults then were asked to rank the most important project, and the community recreation center and the road improvements led, at 22 percent each. The Small Boat Harbor upgrades followed, at 18 percent.

Teens indicated stronger support for the recreation center.

"I would make the rec center happen," one student wrote in response to a prompt about how best to spend taxpayer money.

Twenty-eight percent of students identified the recreation center as their top priority for tax dollars.

"Kids are going crazy because there is nothing to do," one student responded.

The survey also asked where roads or sidewalks should be improved, and one answer requested "better roads everywhere."

Of the adult survey respondents, two-thirds have lived in Haines at least 10 years, and 93 percent spend 10 to 12 months per year in Haines. The average household income was $56,000, and 25 percent of working respondents expect to retire within a decade.

Mayor Jan Hill said the comprehensive plan will be "every bit as important as our code and our charter" and "is not going to be a shelf document."

"You’ve heard me say this before – this is a part of the public process, and the public process doesn’t work if the public doesn’t participate," she said.

Seventy-two percent rated their quality of life as "high." The survey also found support for three cruise ships per week and design guidelines for buildings downtown.

"Natural beauty" and "outdoors" and "small-town/community" far outranked all other attributes in a question of what two things people liked most about living in Haines.

In a question of what industry provides the most of their family income, respondents replied: government 22 percent, retired 17 percent, tourism 15 percent, construction 10 percent, retail 7 percent and fishing 6 percent.

Sheinberg will have several work sessions with the Haines Borough Planning Commission in upcoming months. The plan is scheduled for adoption in March 2012.

Survey results can be viewed at www.hainesborough.us. Sheinberg also has set up a Facebook page, "Haines 2025 Comprehensive Plan."