Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough County parks plan to charge fees

A family takes a hike at Trout Creek. Proposed fees include a $2-per-car entry, a $5 boat ramp fee and a campsite fee of $24.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times (2007)

A family takes a hike at Trout Creek. Proposed fees include a $2-per-car entry, a $5 boat ramp fee and a campsite fee of $24.

RUSKIN — It's the way her kayak paddle slices through the calm water at E.G. Simmons Park.

The way there are no buildings in sight, only water and sky.

"And it's free," said park lover Brooke Barbour.

But not for long. Facing a budget gap of $1.6 million, Hillsborough County parks officials thought they were going to have to cut staff and slash days at its 10 regional parks next year.

To cut $140 million from a budget deflated by falling property taxes, County Administrator Pat Bean also proposed closing the parks four days a week in 2011. But county leaders found an option amid public outcry: fees. People like Barbour, 19, and her boyfriend, Brian Dorrado, 23, will soon have to pay for what was once free.

"It's going to be a different way of doing business and a new way of thinking for us," said parks spokesman John Brill. "The parks will no longer be fully subsidized for people."

The proposed fees include a tentative $2-per-car entry fee, a $5 boat ramp fee and a doubling of campsite fees to $24. Annual passes would be made available for park entry at $50 a person or $100 per family.

An estimated 21 vacant staff positions will also be eliminated to keep costs down, Brill said. He added that the last time the parks department raised fees to use campsites and rent shelters was in 2002.

Officials expect to recoup the $1.6 million budget deficit from the new fees and position cuts. They could even have some left over, Brill said. Commissioners still have to vote on the proposal in September, when the final budget is expected to be hammered out in full detail.

"We don't know for sure how this is going to pan out," Brill said. "We've never done this. We've got to think like a business, and we've got to make enough money to keep things open and running as normal."

Land O'Lakes resident Gregg Irving is one of several supporters who have shown up at commission budget hearings advocating fees. The Wilderness Trails Association president regularly drives south into Hillsborough County to ride the extensive set of off-road bike trails at Wilderness Park. The park is made up of a network of sites including Flatwoods, Dead River and others.

"At the Alafia River State Park, you pay (to get in)," Irving said. "Why wouldn't Wilderness Park be worth a dollar or two?"

His group, along with other avid users, have found that many think it is.

"I don't think that the interest in parks was gauged properly," Irving said. "I'm at the park somewhere between three to five days a week. Some people who use it every day, we support a pay-per-use plan."

Park ranger Daryl Fravel thinks that fees are the missing link. The cost of keeping parks open would be spread among everyone who uses them, including those who live out of the county, he said.

From his post at Edward Medard Park in Plant City, Fravel regularly sees people from Polk, Pasco and even from out of state flock to the park during the cooler winter and spring months.

For $12 a night, they have access to water, electricity and dumping stations.

"There are a lot of things that aren't being done that could be," Fravel said. "Parks can be generating revenue."

Barbour and her boyfriend said they might be inclined to find free places to fish and boat if fees are charged. But they said they understand the need.

"If we had to pay a few dollars, we'd still come," Barbour said. "It's better than not being able to use it. We're nature lovers."

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at cbroadwater@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2454.

. FAST FACTS

Hillsborough's 10 regional parks

• Aldermans Ford Park• Edward Medard Park

• E.G. Simmons Park• Eureka Springs Park

• Lake Park• Lake Rogers Park

• Lettuce Lake Park• Lithia Springs Park

• Upper Tampa Bay• Wilderness Park

More information

Go online to the parks department site at www.
hillsboroughcounty.org/parks and click on "Parks and Trails Services." Or call (813) 635-3500.

Hillsborough County parks plan to charge fees 08/23/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 25, 2009 3:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Fire on neighbor's porch leads to charges against Holiday man

    Crime

    HOLIDAY — A Holiday man was arrested Wednesday after authorities say he torched the front porch of his neighbor, who he insisted was holding his daughter hostage.

    Dan Fry, 63, of Holiday was arrested Wednesday on a charge of first-degree arson. [Photo courtesy of Pasco Sheriff's Office]
  2. Port Richey man solicited sex from 13-year-old, Pasco authorities say

    Crime

    PORT RICHEY — A Port Richey man was arrested Wednesday after Pasco County authorities say he solicited sex from a 13-year-old boy on the gay male dating app Grindr.

    Shawn Daly, 43, of Port Richey was charged with solicitation for sexual conduct with a child over a computer. [Photo courtesy of Pasco Sheriff's Office]
  3. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 16: An evening of wine and song transcends all language barriers for these travelers

    Travel

    Day 16: Castrojeriz to Villarmentero de Campos: 35 km, 10.5 hours. Total for Days 1-16 = 360 km (224 miles)

  4. Unexpected weak quarter at MarineMax slashes boating retailer shares by 20 percent

    Business

    CLEARWATER — Just then you thought it was safe to go back into the water, a boating business leader issued a small craft warning.

    Bill McGill Jr., CEO of Clearwater's MarineMax, the country's biggest recreational boat retailer. [Courtesy of MarineMax]
  5. Dunedin's negotiations with Blue Jays continue

    Local Government

    DUNEDIN — Dunedin officials are still in the process of negotiating a license agreement with the Toronto Blue Jays.

    A rendering by Populous, a global architecture firm specializing in sports facility development, shows the entrance of an upgraded Florida Auto Exchange Stadium shows a Toronto Blue Jays team store. If the $81 million renovation plans between the city and team go through, the store would be open year-round.Credit:  Populous