Parks, Arts, & Recreation Survey 2021


Written by Jacob Werblow, Ph.D.

Central Connecticut State University

Background: During the summer of 2021, the City of Hartford contracted Jacob Werblow, Ph.D., a professor at Central Connecticut State University and a faculty partner with the Institute for Municipal and Regional and Policy (IMRP), to create and disseminate an arts and recreation survey for Hartford residents. The purpose of the survey was to assess residents’ views on arts and recreational facilities and program usage and to help identify priorities for the future improvement of arts and recreation in the Hartford community.

The following partners assisted in the electronic dissemination (via on-line newsletters, e-mails, etc.) of the survey: Families, Children, Youth, and Recreation (DFCYR), Hartford Public Library (HPL), Hartford Public Schools HPS), The Office of Community Engagement, Community Renewal Team (CRT), and Hartford Catholic Charities.

Results: Participation & Representation

The survey was distributed in English and in Spanish to residents of Hartford between the 26th of August and the 27th of October, 2021. In total, 1,465 users opened the survey and 471 completed it, for a response rate of 32%. As a comparison, the number of users who opened the survey is nearly the same as the number of votes received by the newly elected members to Hartford’s Board of Education during the most recent election.

In English, 981 users started the survey and 392 completed it, for a response rate of 40%, which is considered “good” / “adequate” for on-line survey research. In Spanish, 484 users started the survey and 79 completed it, for a response rate of 16%, which is considered “acceptable” for on-line survey research. In terms of linguistic representation, 20% of survey respondents completed the Spanish version.

For all survey respondents, the majority – nearly 1/3 – live in zip code: 06106. Overall, survey completers were well represented across the city. Six Hartford zip codes were each represented by at least 10% of completers. For Spanish respondents, five neighborhoods were represented by at least 5% of residents in each neighborhood. For English respondents, five neighborhoods were represented by at least 6% of residents in each neighborhood.

Results: Uses & Priorities

Bushnell and Elizabeth Park are most often visited. Approximately 1/3 of all survey respondents visit a park in the City of Hartford at least once per week. Nearly 50% of all survey respondents visit a park in the city at least once per month.

In terms of programming usage, arts/music/dance events or programs (e.g., Music / Jazz in the park, Summer of Soul, Dance in the Park), Library programs, and movies in the park were the most popular. Golf and Senior programs were the least popular. Sixty-seven (67) percent of survey completers reported that they or a member of their household attended a program offered by the City of Hartford in the past 12 months. In terms of funding priorities, respondents overwhelmingly call for more funding of a variety of programs. Specifically, survey respondents called for more funding of: botanical gardens, indoor fitness areas, indoor playgrounds for children, nature trails, splash pads, and ziplines. The program recommended to be given less funding was golf. Yet, the majority of participants agreed that providing future funding for indoor playgrounds and minigolf would be “valuable.”

In terms of needs being met, 34% of respondents indicated that they have a need for preschool programs, but only 53% indicated that their needs were being met. This issue deserves more exploration.

Participants overwhelmingly depend on Facebook and other forms of social media as well as communicating with friends and neighbors for learning of Arts and Recreational facilities and programming.

In terms of overall satisfaction, nearly half of all completers “disagreed” that “Hartford Parks are clean and safe” and “I’m happy with the overall quality of the programs.” Nearly 80% of all completers wanted to know more about the programs and services related to the arts and recreation that are available.

In future survey administrations, it may be useful to gather data on residents’: age, type of residency, parent of school-aged children. Also, for its geographic size, it appears that residents of the North End were underrepresented in the sample.

The survey was distributed in English and in Spanish to residents of Hartford between the 26th of August and the 27th of October, 2021. In total, 1,465 users opened the survey and 471 completed it, for a response rate of 32%. As a comparison, the number of users who opened the survey is nearly the same as the number of votes received by the newly elected members to Hartford’s Board of Education during the most recent election.

1. What is your zip code?

Zip CodeRespondents Percentages

2. Which neighborhood in Hartford do you live in? Please check one:

Asylum Hill255.3
Barry Square143.0
Behind the Rocks214.5
Blue Hills*286.0
Frog Hollow204.3
North Meadows*40.9
Sheldon/Charter Oak122.6
South End6413.6
South Green40.9
South Meadows10.2
Upper Albany*92.0
West End4810.0
Missing Cases8217.5
*North End    9420.0

Recreation Facilities Usage:

3. Which parks (listed below) do you visit most often (circle 3): Check any three:

PARK   FrequencyPercentages 
Bushnell Park22419%
Elizabeth Park24220%
Colt Park847%
Forster Heights202%
Goodwin Golf Course242%
Goodwin Park1059%
Hyland & Rocky Ridge252%
Keney Golf Course161%
Keney Park837%
Pope Park918%
Riverfront Park716%
Riverside Park897%
Sigourney Street111%
Wexford Park30%
Charter Oak Landing131%
Mortenson Riverfront454%

4. Approximately how often did you / your family visit any of the parks in the City of Hartford in the last 12 months?

Frequency of VisitsRespondents   Percentages 
A few times throughout the year14028.1
About once per month8116.2
At least once a week15531.1
Not this year9519.0
Missing/No Response285.6

            Total                                                      499                                 100.0

Arts & Recreation Programming Usage

5. From the following list, please check all of the City of Hartford programs that you or members of your household have participated in during the past 12 months?

Hartford Programs Percentage
Youth/Adult Sports (e.g., leagues, tournaments, camps)10%
Arts/Music/Dance events or programs (e.g., Music/Jazz in the park, Summer of Soul, Dance in the Park)23%
Golf Programs/Golfing (e.g., tournaments, lessons, open play)3%
Senior Programs (e.g., social activities, classes, etc.)2%
Public Library (e.g, books, resources, services, events)20%
Movies in the Park12%
Winterfest: Ice Skating12%

Parks / Programming: Current Funding Priorities

6. Council members of the City of Hartford would like to know how residents want to see our future tax dollars spent. To help us prioritize our funding, please indicate which you would like to see receive more / less funding. Check the appropriate box:

Facility/ProgramMore FundingLess FundingMaintain Funding No Opinion
Basketball courts40%0%36%23%
Botanical gardens55%4%32%10%
Golf courses14%34%31%20%
Graffiti parks/walls47%10%33%18%
Handball courts19%13%27%38%
Ice skating44%7%28%20%
Indoor basketball/volleyball courts39%5%33%24%
Indoor fitness/exercise facilities52%5%28%19%
Indoor playground for children57%1%19%20%
Nature trails78%3%20%9%
Open-air museums (gardens, sculpture walks, etc.)62%2%24%11%
Outdoor amphitheater/theater 47%4%37%13%
Outdoor chess tables37%7%31%13%
Outdoor pool47%4%31%18%
Outdoor skateboard/bike park & classes47%4%31%18%
Playground/playscapes 58%3%29%10%
Rock climbing walls32%10%29%12%
Soccer/football fields 36%7%40%17%
Splash pads/spray parks54%5%24%16%
Tennis/pickleball courts 35%5%35%19%
Volleyball courts32%6%36%26%
Yoga/dance/Zumba classes50%5%27%17%
Zipline/ropes park48%7%20%26%


7. If you entered “other,” please write in the facility / program you are referring to: All of the above, anything that teens want (and support staff), Baseball, Football, cleaning goose droppings and Pope Park, Cricket, daily on-site park rangers, food forests / farms (2), mini-golf, arts district, indoor skating rink, indoor/outdoor marijuana consumption space, Keney park disc golf, lights on fields (for night playing), more art music (2) & Theater to support adults, more dog parks, more funding to keep parks clean, nature spaces (2), rollerskating, running trails w/ mile markers, Ferris Wheel @ Bushnell Park, swimming pools (2), Spanish: deberian de hacer pistas publicas para caminar y correr, limpieza de las áreas recreativas, parques especiales para niños con autismo y/u otras necesidades especiales, talleres de manualidades.

Parks / Programming: Future Funding Priorities & Values

8. Below is a list of parks / programs that are currently NOT offered by the City of Hartford. If it were possible to fund them, please indicate that amount of value it would provide our community. Check the appropriate box:

Park/ProgramHighly ValuableSomewhat ValuableNot ValuableNo Opinion
ATV/dirt bike parks34%24%7%13%
Canoeing/rowing classes41%40%7%9%
Challenging obstacle courses/adventure scapes48%32%8%13%
Indoor playground 50%25%7%16%
Mini-golf course35%42%12%10%
Off-leash dog parks32%37%22%18%
Outdoor ping pong tables23%35%21%20%


9. If you entered “other,” please write in the facility / program you are referring to: (English Responses): Ferris Wheel, Amphitheaters and sculpture parks, anything that teens want, ATV park in North Meadows, cooking classes, on-site park rangers, bike baths & lanes (3), running paths, childcare / finance classes / adult classes (2), food truck parks, nature play gardens, roller skating. (Spanish Responses): canchas de baloncesto, para niños con autismo, piscinas bajo techo.

Arts & Recreation: Priorities & Needs

10. Which of the following programs do you / your household need? If, yes, you have a need, please indicate whether or not this need is being met. Check the appropriate box.

Question 1: Do you have a need?  Question 2: Is your need met?

Type of ProgramYesNoYesNo
Learn to swim programs (youth)53%47%37%63%
Learn to swim programs (adult)51%49%34%66%
Lifeguarding classes (teen/adult)41%59%42%58%
Preschool programs34%66%53%47%
Before and after school programs43%57%23%77%
Rollerblading/skateboarding classes 39%61%25%75%
Performance art classes- dance/theater/music 69%31%16%84%
Visual art classes- drawing, painting, photography, filmmaking 69%31%9%91%
Gymnastics classes44%64%10%90%
Martial arts programs (karate, judo, etc.)54%46%10%90%
Adult wellness and fitness (yoga, nutrition, meditation, etc.)76%24%21%79%
Adult sports/leagues53%47%11%89%
Senior programming41%59%13%87%
Programming for people with disabilities38%72%15%85%
Water sports- kayaking/paddle boarding51%49%13%87%
Special events/cultural festivals 83%17%39%61%
Ice Skating55%45%42%58%


Communication: How well are we keeping you informed?

11. Please check all of the ways that you learn about the Arts and Recreational facilities and programming:

Facebook/Social Media24%
From friends and neighbors19% 10%
Newspaper articles/advertisements 11%
Radio advertisements 5%
Repeat customer6%
School flyers/newsletters6%
Website: City of Hartford Parks & Recreation6%
Website: Greater Hartford Arts Alliance6%
Website: Hartford Public Schools9%

12. Please rate your opinion of the following statements:

StatementAgreeDisagreeNo Opinion
Overall, I feel that Hartford parks are clean and safe.40%51%6%
Overall, I am happy with the quality of the arts and recreation programming provided by the City of Hartford30%57%14%
Overall, I am happy with my / my household’s participation in the programs and services provided by the city of Hartford. 41%39%21%
Finding information related to the arts and parks and recreational programming provided by the city of Hartford is easy to find.30%56%15%
I would like to know more about what programs and services related to the arts and recreation are available to me and my family. 77%8%15%

13. Please provide any additional feedback / comments for the city of Hartford related to the quality and access of the arts and recreation:

English Respondents

“Would love to see the Bushnell Park Beer Garden come back! Also, doing the Picnic in the Park on alternate dates (not always the same day of the week)”

“Why are we spending so much money on golf courses used primarily by nonresidents”

“Websites have little or no information”

“we need a separate department again, recreation and arts need to be the main priority of the city”

“We need a arts district for more entertainment and the north end is often left behind broken promises for years”

“we loved visiting the Pope Park pool this summer. It needs investment! It’s a jewel and the staff was amazing”

“We have a lot of facilities we don’t use. Indoor pool at Quirk has been defunct for years. Can community use indoor pools?”

“Traffic calming around the parks is needed – it’s just a matter of time before some kid gets mowed down by a dirt bike or ATV near Bushnell Park, for instance”

“There needs to be a centralized hub of arts information that makes communicating ALL the things happening in Hartford more streamlined”

“There is too much talent in our youth that is yet to be unearthed”

“There is always room for improvement. Parks can be cleaner – more environmentally focused..plant more flowers…. plant trees…feed the parks the way you are expecting them to feed the people. Invest in what you believe in. SPEND money on recreation”

“There are plenty of the parks nearby that need funding for fixing. Colt park is a beauty that’s where my kids play football and cheerleading and the park had plenty of broken objects and the kids couldn’t really enjoy plenty of space there but needs”

“The Recreation Department is geared toward contracting services to non profits when they have employees who can do the same job. To live in the city, our kids should be offered activities that are suitable to our demographics”

“thank you for your efforts”

“Stop excluding the North End of Hartford we MATTER!!”

“Spend more on after school programming. Do ot at each school. Engaged kids don’t get in trouble”

“Rec department runs very few programs and is impossible to find out what they are actually doing.”

“Provide more assistance in tending to flower gardens iin parks with no foundartion money”

“Need more park cleaning, playground equipment broken and unsafe, not enough programming for kids in the park, not enough wildlife and farm like experiences, playscapes old and outdated compared to suburbs, Need more Tennis Courts”

“More Black American and Puerto Ricans need to be hired to do art jobs in the city! I’m disappointed with white artists doing street art”

an tiful but has been ignored and left in need of love and attention. i am trying to start a running club in the city, but this is a challenge because our built environment does not support this activi

“Maintenance MUST ALSO be prioritized!”

“Keeping all park facilities city wide clean and well kept is important not just select parks but all parks and facilities”

“Is there any way to develop the abandoned YMCA building downtown into a space for the community, including the swimming pool?”

“Information of the available resources in Hartford should be broadcasted more. Communities suffer from the lack of knowledge of what is available too them”

“I would love to see more money dedicated to Keney Park – nature trails, trash pick up, tennis courts, the road closed to cars for safer walking, better utilization of the beautiful space, a working splash pad (the one inside the pool area)”

“I would like to learn about zumba and yoga and other adult programming”

“i think each time Hart invests money into art and recreation it is also is a success and pays for itself and makes a profit but the next budget they always cut the budget. they need to invest in it because it would bring in tourist/convention tourists”

“Hey! My family and I frequent Foster Park in the Southwest area. If we can please make sure the garbage cans are being emptied on a weekly bases. The can collects bees and the can in in the playground making a dangerous situation”

“Hartford should follow the models of surrounding towns like Farmington Valley West Hartford”

“Getting info about any programming or info in general from the City is a challenge at best”

“There is a huge need for better and more varied communication”

“Daily on site Park Rangers would be helpful in providing safety and keeping the parks clean and orderly”

“city caters to younger kids but need more 16+”

“a webinar of parks as inclusive infrastructure is NOT emphasizing recreational facilities”

“Once again, Hartford seems to be missing why nature matters most”

“You guys do you’re best in a city with so much crime and no ones job is easy but thank you for all you GUYS DO, Do for the City of Hartford. Born and raised here and I honestly love my home”

“You Do NOT do enough in the arts at ALL! There is great need for Rec Centers and places for kids to gather to learn as well as play. There has been a rec closed on Tower Avenue since I was young. I’m 46 now. Ya’ll playing games!!!! Tighten UP”

“Would love more water activities. We have access to the river but no paddle board, kayak, canoe, nor paddle boats rentals. More walking paths (like west Hartford reservoir). Better support for small private gyms”

“We need more fun places for teens and young adults like Thrillz and more cultural and fun festivals and obstacle courses”

“We need a dedicated recreation department! The West Hartford Rec website is much easier to navigate and clearer than any Hartford site. That shouldn’t be the case”

“Visable and Constant Communication regarding programs”

“Thanks for your support of all the wonderful music in Bushnell Park and the city events eg the West Indian parade, and yoga andPratt St. activities‚Ķ.an hoping to get to Yoga before it ends”

“Thank you for the opportunity to complete this survey!”

“not enough publicity”

“No free/ low income activities for low income kids we used to have YMCA but now the. Cover more than a gym $35 month to classes that never younger it because leak of volunteers”

“Nice to see a survey”

“Need way more free garden space. So many empty land that once had trees that could be turned into gardening spots. People really need to learn to garden. Still do many kids dont know how a carrot leaf look like. Water can be a issue.”


“many artistic kids in htfd but arts only caters to areas of htfd”

“It is generally impossible to find out pool hours without actually going to the pool and seeing what it posted. No one picks up the phone. There were flyers this year that helped, but generally nothing ACCURATE online”

“I would love for all programs to be together. I find information through many different websites and Facebook groups. It would be better to go to the Hartford website and find all the programs there listed end organized with links”

“I think the city has wonderful festivals and cultural activities. I think it is lacking in opportunities for children related to classes. To get swimming classes during the school year, dance, gymnastics, art classes you have to leave the city”

“I hope they don’t denied the right education for my children”

“I am looking forward to enjoying the event”

“I am concerned that the City is not prioritizing amenities for Coltsville National Historica Park”

“Hartford area very under served. Everything is in West Hartford, very racially and ecominical segregation is very obvious and sad to witness in 2021”

“Forster Heights Park is NOT kept well maintained the splash pad is in terrible condition and cars get inside the court making it very dangerous for the little kids and the playground is always dirty this park needs attention immediately!”

“Expand Winterfest”

“Depends on what park you visit”

“Can make the parks better by putting more money and thought into them”

“Arts and recreational districts ought to be located adjacent to parks with constructed landscapes. Our historic parks need programming that offers an opportunity to experience nature (organic growth), which is not plastic playscapes and games”

“Accesible and frequent communication is sorely needed. A strategic communications for arts and recreation would benefit the city of Hartford and its residents tremendously”

“‘Some” parks are safe, some are safe in daytime. More trash cams needed and they need to be emptied more”.

Spanish Respondents

“Por favor, exprese sus comentarios en torno a la calidad y disponibilidad de los servicios de recreación y las artes en la Ciudad de Hartford”

“No hay nada, lo que hay no tiene disponibilidad o son muy caros”

“Comensar ,a utilizar las escuelas como primer lugar , que ya existe, para preparar a padres y madres aprendan algun oficio , para que puedanser empoderados y sacar su familia adelante. Tambien , los niños y jovenes se pueden beneficiar despues de cla”

“No son seguros porq muchos vagos pasan con sus motocicletas al rededor de los parques sin importarle los niños!”


“Sujiero seguridad en los parques, muchos adultos consumen droga en ellos y lamentablemente cuando voy con mis ni√±os ellos no pueden divertirse o jugar porque nos tenemos que marchar debido a la alta cantidad de personas usuarias y vendedores”

“Se necesita pensar m√°s en los j√≥venes para que no terminen en las calles delinquiendo”

“Muy buena disponibilidad para para los j√≥venes y los ni√±os se matiene es pretendido”

“Me gustaria que aumente la seguriadad de las persona en hartford que acaben cob el grimen”

“Las areas recreativas no tiene buena limpieza constante y recogido de bazura”

“Lamentablemente no se puede participar en muchas de las actividades de Hartford porque no existe disciplina con los participantes son gente que no respetan incluso los ni√±os que participan son malcriados y agresivos usan malas palabras”

“I have 3 young girls. 7,5,4 and a 19 year old. There were no programs help him while.growung up. Now with the 2 girls, I’ve seen the

summer/spring sports available which was soooooo nice. Other than that, I

haven’t seen much”

“Grasias por darnos la oportunidad por Este Medio”