Respondents to Palm Coast's 2020 Citizen Survey also selected 'natural habitat' as Palm Coast's greatest asset.
Palm Coast has many assets — its restaurants, its shopping, its tennis and golf facilities, its Community Center and City Hall — but the one most prized by people who answered Palm Coast's 2020 Citizen Survey was the one not built by human hands: The natural habitat.
Asked about what they considered to be the city's top asset, the largest share of respondents (28.31%) selected "natural habitat," followed by "beautiful appearance" and "recreational opportunities."
When a question asked respondents to rank their economic development priorities, the selection "preserving natural environment" topped the list
"Quality jobs" and "workforce talent" were selected by the fewest respondents, at less than 2% each. (See more selections in the image below.)
The importance of the city's scenic natural spaces was a priority for residents even in questions that weren't directly about the environment: When a question asked respondents to rank their economic development priorities, the selection "preserving natural environment" topped the list, followed by workforce development, business resiliency, fiber network 5G service, innovation district, and diverse housing options.
Asked what types of recreational facilities or activities they'd like to see, the largest share of respondents selected "nature center," then, in decreasing order, "cultural arts," "outdoor sports/recreation (disc golf, pickleball, golf, croquet etc)," "multipurpose community center with recreation amenities (indoor gym)," "teen activities/after-school programs," and "tech enology programs."
Polled on how often they visit city parks and trails, and which ones they use, residents said they used Waterfront Park the most, followed by Holland Park and Linear Park.
One question addressed the impact of COVID-19, asking residents whether it had affected their employment. A total of 134 (4.5%) of the 2,970 survey respondents said they'd lost their jobs and 70 had retired as a result of the virus, while 282 had been required to work remotely.
That concerned City Councilman Ed Danko, who asked how representative the sample was.
"I am concerned about that 134 out of the 2,900 who say they've lost their jobs," Danko said during a presentation about the survey at a March 9 City Council workshop. "Let's hope it doesn't reflect the entire city. ... When you do the math, it's a little concerning."
Councilman Nick Klufas pointed out that the Citizen Survey, which is created by city staff, is not statistically representative — unlike the International City & County Management Association's National Community Survey, which is. The two surveys are administered to Palm Coast residents on alternating years.
"We can extrapolate out numbers like that, but let's just be careful," Klufas said, "because like you're saying, this universe doesn't actually represent a proper cross-section. It's just individuals who we could get to respond."
Survey respondents were disproportionately homeowners and disproportionately retired.
Asked about development priorities, the largest share of respondents selected the development of the Town Center Innovation District as the most needed. That selection, though, was followed by people who chose "not sure," then by selections for industrial development in designated zones, commercial development off Matanzas Woods Parkway, residential and commercial development along U.S. 1, and "other."
On growth and development priorities, respondents selected "providing adequate job opportunities," "protection of natural resources," and "protecting small town character" as their top three.
Respondents overwhelmingly said that they prefer to communicate with city staff the old fashioned way — by phone. That option was followed, in decreasing order, by email, in-person, texting, Palm Coast Connect and postage mail.
Palm Coast in 2020 received its most positive ratings since 2015 in several metrics, including overall appearance, overall quality of life, overall economic health, feeling of safety, and the likelihood of respondents remaining in Palm Coast for the next five years.