Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough park users ante up new $2 entry fee

Closing the park would be worse.

That was the consensus of people at Upper Tampa Bay Park on Sunday, the first day Hillsborough County began charging $2 per car to enter its regional and wilderness parks.

"There's nothing better than getting out in the fresh air and kayaking and fishing," said Sandi Rosas of Town 'N Country. She said she didn't mind paying $2 to check out the park's kayak launch.

The fee is a first for the county and is a sign — as if anyone needed another one — of the times.

Confronted by falling property tax revenues, Hillsborough officials have reduced funding to many programs, instituted five countywide furlough days and eliminated hundreds of jobs, including 22 vacant park ranger positions.

This summer they also proposed closing regional parks two days a week in 2009-10 and four days a week in 2010-11.

After public push-back, officials established the fees as an alternative to keep parks open seven days a week.

Padlocking park gates was "a terrible idea, especially at a time when people are looking for a cheap form of entertainment," said David Smith of Westchase, who was at Upper Tampa Bay Park's playground with his wife, Nikki, and their two young sons.

The park fee is a good option because it lets visitors choose when they use the parks, Smith said.

The fees are expected to generate $3.1 million this fiscal year, county parks and recreation spokesman John Brill said. Without it, the county would have to cut 35 more positions and close parks two to four days a week.

By 11 a.m. Sunday, about 30 cars had paid the entry fee at Upper Tampa Bay Park, ranger Glenn Whiteman said.

A handful turned around because they didn't have the cash.

One woman pulled away, saying there were plenty of free parks. And another, a visitor from Canada, said seasonal residents like her should be able to buy an annual pass at half-price.

While most visitors knew about the new fee, it caught a few people by surprise.

"I was a little shocked," said Kathy Newlan, a 62-year-old licensed practical nurse from Tampa. But when she heard the history, she said it was worth it. "I can understand that."

Countywide, more than 2,100 drivers paid the fee the first day it was charged, Brill said, and demand for annual passes on Monday was brisk.

John Rosas of Town 'N Country didn't balk at the fee but said he hopes he doesn't see in Hillsborough what he has begun to notice in Pinellas, where he pays to launch his boat at Fort De Soto Park. There, Rosas said, the restrooms are not as clean and well-stocked as they once were.

He hopes the $2 he and his wife paid to get in to Upper Tampa Bay Park goes toward upkeep.

"If they're going to use the money properly, I'm fine with it," said Rosas, 53, who works in the soft drink business. "If not, then it disgusts me."

New park fees

Entry: $2 per car for vehicles with up to eight people. Vehicles carrying more than eight people are charged $1 more for each additional person. People who run, walk or ride a bicycle to the park enter free.

Boat: $5 for each boat that comes in on a trailer and uses a ramp to launch. Canoes and kayaks are free.

Annual passes: $100 per family, $50 per individual, $100 per boat. Passes are good for one year from purchase. To buy a pass, visit

Where you pay: Eight regional parks (Alderman's Ford, E.G. Simmons, Edward Medard, Eureka Springs, Lake Park, Lake Rogers, Lettuce Lake, Lithia Springs and Upper Tampa Bay) and six wilderness parks (Dead River, Flatwoods, John B. Sargeant Sr., Morris Bridge, Trout Creek and Veterans Memorial).

Hillsborough park users ante up new $2 entry fee 11/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 5, 2009 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals


    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates


    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears


    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'


    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]