Preliminary results of an online survey on improving parks and recreational opportunities in Van Buren show 85 percent of more than 600 responding expressed support for a swimming pool or aquatics center.

Van Buren City Planner Joe Hurst released the results Tuesday night at a public input session at the Municipal Complex.

"This was a recurring theme throughout the survey responses," Hurst said.

Other activities that received significant support include walking, hiking and running, bicycling, concerts, adventure/ropes course, canoeing and kayaking and fitness programs.

Van Buren has been working with officials from Bentonville-based contractors CEI Engineering and Alta Planning and Development on a long-term, comprehensive parks and recreation plan.

Hurst said it will be in line with the parks master plan which includes recent park renovations paid for by grant funding and the citywide 1 percent sales taxes.

Many individuals expressed a desire for additional opportunities for walking, bicycling, hiking and running.

Hurst said these activities can be done on a trail within a city park, on linear trails or greenways and even on sidewalks and streets within the city.

"These activities can be increased by providing additional facilities like trails, greenways, on-street bikeways and other improvements that make walking, bicycling, hiking and running safer, more convenient and more enjoyable," states the preliminary results.

Survey respondents pointed to trails, greenways and bike lines that would take them from their neighborhoods to desired destinations throughout the community.

Sidewalks accounted for 31 to 46 write-in responses, Hurst said.

When trails and sidewalks lead to important, frequently visited destinations like schools, parks and shopping areas, the survey notes people can incorporate walking and bicycling into their daily routines.

Among the most common destinations identified were Van Buren High School, Main Street, Walmart, downtown Van Buren, Dr. Louis Peer Memorial City Park and Lee Creek Park.

Generic destinations like schools, parks, shopping and work also were frequently identified.

Hurst said trails, sidewalks and bikeways can extend the reach of the park system, tap into diverse funding sources and meet the needs of many community residents who desire facilities for walking, bicycling, running and biking.

The survey states the majority of the respondents are members of households with children and have lived in the city for some time.

"As such, they feel strongly about their parks system and the potential it has to enrich the lives of their families and be a source of pride for the city," the survey further states.

Respondents, however, cite the aging, poorly kept facilities, overgrown trails and seedy activity is some of the city’s parks. Many believe poor quality and lack of maintenance of the park system reflect poorly on the city.

"Many people felt very similarly about the activities and program offerings as well," the survey states, "Residents noted that most age groups were under served by the current offerings, and that the poor communications do not help encourage usage."

Hurst said the input gathered through the planning process and the online survey will help guide investments in parks and recreation facilities and programs that are consistent with community desires and will provide lasting value for residents and visitors alike.

Van Buren’s parks and recreation plan is expected to be completed by the end of the year.