There’s been a threefold rise since 2008 in the number of people in Scott County who consider it a top priority to preserve open space, a new survey finds.

“The residents placed improving natural resources higher than building new recreational facilities,” said Mark Themig, general manager of Scott County parks.

The share of those saying the primary goal of the system should be to preserve open space jumped from 6 percent to 18 percent amid concern about the county’s ability to get the funds to nail down available tracts of land. The number saying it’s equal between that and recreation slid from 82 to 72 percent.

Residents place a higher priority on outdoor recreation than on other free time pursuits, a survey of 250 Scott County households suggests.

Results have been released from a telephone survey taken in the fall of 2013 by Morris Leatherman Co. for Three Rivers Park District, the Hennepin County-based agency that partners with Scott.

About 42 percent of Scott County residents place a high priority on outdoor activity compared with 28 percent of the residents polled in suburban Hennepin County, pollsters found.

The fact that Scott’s population is younger and has more children at home than residents of suburban Hennepin may explain the difference, the survey company said.

Three Rivers takes park surveys every five years. The last one was in 2008. The new findings were presented last week to Scott County commissioners.

The survey found that the most common activity for Scott County parks and trails users was walking, followed by fishing, picnicking, golfing, swimming and biking.

Themig said he was struck by the survey finding that “there is strong support for parks and outdoor recreation even from folks who are not park users.’’

The survey found that “Protecting and improving natural resources is a high priority, second only to taking care of what we have,’’ Themig said. “I think this should suggest that we continue to look at incorporating natural resource restoration work as part of our capital projects moving forward.

“We did this with the most recent Spring Lake Regional Park development project as well as other work throughout the Scott County system, and I think it will become more of a focal point in future projects as we look at what improvements we can deliver with our limited funding.’’

According to a Metropolitan Council count of visits to park attractions, the two most popular park amenities in Scott County are Cleary Lake Regional Park and Scott County Regional Trail.