Stanwood Strategic Planning Surveys: Extension helps a community shape its future

Primary author: Season Hoard
Co-author(s): Brian Anderson; Martha Aitken; Christina Sanders; Brad Gaolach

Primary college/unit: Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences
Campus: Pullman


City governments are increasingly engaging university researchers to aid their strategic planning processes. Through these collaborations, these entities can better engage with their communities to understand perceptions of government performance as well as identify priority areas that should be addressed in future planning. The City of Stanwood contracted with WSU Extension to conduct surveys of Stanwood residents and residents of Camano Island and unincorporated Stanwood to support their strategic planning efforts. The surveys were designed to ascertain opinions of City services, and community priorities over the next two to five years.

In the summer of 2019, three online surveys were distributed: 1) a random household survey of Stanwood residents, 2) a convenience survey of Stanwood residents, and 3) a convenience survey of Camano Island and Unincorporated Stanwood residents (who live outside of the city, but frequently use Stanwood services). WSU developed the surveys in partnership with the City to ensure information collected would be useful for future planning. City representatives distributed the convenience survey links via various outlets, including social media, websites, newspapers, and community events, while the random household survey was distributed via post card. A total of 688 survey responses were received across all three surveys.

Analysis across the three surveys suggests that improved streets and traffic flow, improved parks and amenities, more police officers, more hotels and lodging, and more recreation programming are top priorities for strategic planning. Additionally, Stanwood needs to focus on business recruitment and retention as well as improve communication with residents.