Ft. Getty needs more discussion, survey says
Jamestown residents are fairly evenly divided in their support of camping at Ft. Getty, and they have some unexpected opinions on the best ways to use the 28-acre park profitably, according to the results of a recent survey.
Ft. Getty was just one of the subject areas in Jamestown’s 2010 Community Survey. However, now that a number of Town Council members have signaled their intention to get the Ft. Getty Master Plan “off the dime,” the survey findings are especially timely.
Nineteen percent of Jamestown households responded to the 2010 Community Survey. Town Planner Lisa Bryer told the Press that this response, while less than the 30% response to the 1999 Community Survey, is still “excellent” – and that “anything over 10% is regarded as a valid survey.”
Asked to single out the most notable findings of the survey, Bryer pointed to the results of a question asking respondents to “rank each revenue-producing use that you would support at Fort Getty.”
Coming in first was an open pavilion, which last year brought in $8,000 in rental fees. The open pavilion use was supported or strongly supported by 430 respondents, along with 19 residents who didn’t support the use and 13 who weren’t sure.
The top-ranked open pavilion use was followed by, in descending order:
• A wind turbine (with 331 respondents supportive or strongly supportive, 83 unsupportive and 31 unsure).
• A community boating program (with 321 respondents supportive or strongly supportive, 82 unsupportive and 42 unsure).
• A multi-season pavilion (with 314 respondents supportive or strongly supportive, 85 unsupportive and 39 unsure).
• Tent camping (with 278 respondents supportive or strongly supportive, 122 unsupportive and 34 unsure).
• Recreational vehicle camping (with 216 respondents supportive or strongly supportive, 199 unsupportive and 10 unsure).
• Boat storage (with 201 respondents supportive or strongly supportive, 47 unsupportive and 50 unsure).
“It’s surprising that a turbine ranked second and RV camping was second-to-last [among revenue producing uses],” Bryer said, “because the community supports revenue production at the park, and [RV] camping is the primary activity there now.”
After maintenance expenses and the annual $150,000 allocation to the Ft. Getty Capital Improvement Fund, the town nets approximately $100,000 from RV camping fees.
However, Bryer observed, “the survey results clearly indicate that the community needs a discussion to find out if they’re happy with what we have at the park, and they indicate that residents definitely want more uses out there.”
Asked if she thought that the even split in community support for RV camping was in any way unexpected, Bryer said, “No. The RV camping use didn’t have overwhelming support either way in our 2004 Ft. Getty Survey.”
In both the 2004 survey and the 2010 Community Survey, residents were asked what they would “like to see happen to the RV campground.”
This year, 210 respondents (42.2%) said this use should remain the same; 185 (37.3%) said it should be eliminated and 102 (20.5%) said it should be reduced.
The most significant change among those responses is that, in the 2004 Ft. Getty Survey, 30% of the respondents said the campground should be eliminated – notably less than the 37.3% tallied in 2010.
Bryer said that, unlike the 2010 survey, the 2004 survey included a “not sure” option for the answers to this question, so “what may have happened is that some of the ‘not sure’ respondents in 2004 went with the ‘reduced’ response this time around.”
Fifty-seven percent of the respondents said they generally support the use of Ft. Getty to generate revenue – and RV camping produces the most revenue of any Ft. Getty use today. However, Bryer said she feels strongly that the RV use should not preclude a consideration of other uses going forward.
“Clearly, some of the thinking in our community has changed over the last six years, and I think we need more input for Ft. Getty planning,” Bryer said. “That’s why I suggested doing an additional survey during the Town Council’s Ft. Getty workshop [held on Sept. 14], although my idea wasn’t warmly received. I also think a community charrette, with people sitting in front of a map, would be a great way to spark some creative thinking about the park.”
Bryer added that “the seasonal [RV] campers have been, and continue to be, wonderful stewards of the land. They’re the first ones to let the town know if someone isn’t following the rules.
“However,” she continued, “speaking on behalf of the town – not as a personal opinion – my position on the [RV] campers is that the community would be best served by a greater diversity of uses that serve and benefit the residents. Whether that means reducing or eliminating RV camping, I don’t know – it’s not my decision, and I don’t have an opinion on that. But I do believe that we can do better.”
Survey respondents returned a multitude of write-in suggestions for Ft. Getty uses. Asked if she had any preferences among the write-in suggestions, Bryer singled out one, in particular: The idea of “outdoor concerts like Tanglewood.”
The idea isn’t new. In the 1994 version of the Ft. Getty Master Plan, there was a recommendation for “an informal ‘amphitheater’ area [on the north end of the park].” Bryer said that a stage, along with an associated building for the use of performers and musicians during the season and possibly boatstorage in the off-season, would be more appropriate at the base of the eastern elevation, with terraced seating built into the hill above, because the topography offers a natural amphitheater.
“I wouldn’t envision a permanent stage right off the bat,” Bryer said, “but I see this idea as a wonderful opportunity for our community to enjoy music and theater at this jewel of a park, while providing the town with a potentially significant revenue stream – with as few as a half-dozen events per season.”
Bryer also expressed her strong support for a municipal sailing school, which was taken off the table when council discussions with FAST – a group that sought to develop the school in partnership with the town – broke down last year.
“A sailing school would provide more benefits to kids and their parents than many people might be aware of,” Bryer said. “For kids to sail boats by themselves in the middle of a bay just builds their selfconfi dence incredibly. It changes them. So, I was happy to see the survey results ranking a sailing center so high because I agree that it’s a great idea. I think it would be a tremendous asset for the community that could also serve kids from other parts of the state. It wouldn’t necessarily require bricks and mortar. It could operate from a tent – or a beach – and it could serve as an adjunct to the Teen Center.”
Bryer said she expects the results of the 2010 Community Survey to be posted on the Jamestown website within a couple of weeks.