Members of the Brooksville Horseshoe Club tried to hold their ground at Monday night's City Council meeting.
The council voted unanimously to charge all clubs and other organized users of the city's parks, a move planned since a citizens task force recommended it last summer.
Horseshoe club members argued that the city has no right to charge the club because they built the horseshoe pits at Tom Varn Park in 1981. Also, members said, a fee would make tournaments too costly.
Last, members argued, the club installed 15 tons of clay in the pits over the past several years and paid $100 a ton.
Club members stormed out after the vote, one member throwing his hat in the wastebasket by the door. Club president Don Barton then walked back in.
"Who do I have to talk to to remove the clay?" he asked the council. "It's our clay. I can get it out and sell it."
David Pugh, the city's director of parks and recreation, explained that because the clay was now on park property, it belonged to the city.
Pugh further explained to the council that the horseshoe club's circumstance was no different from many other clubs'. Most of the facilities at the parks were built through community efforts. Most notable were the softball fields, he said. Softball leagues that built the fields and paid fees to use them for several years face higher fees under the new fee structure.
"There is nothing at Tom Varn Park that has not been built through community effort," said Jim Brooks, vice president of the city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
The board recommended the fee structure. It was based largely on comparisons with other localities that charge user fees at their parks. Pugh emphasized that for casual uses, such as pickup basketball and softball games, the city would not charge a fee. But people who want to reserve a court are required to pay, even if they are just practicing. He also said that it will cost to reserve a pavilion.
"I just feel that it's fair and equitable for everyone," Pugh said. "It's a system that shares the burden of revenues for all activities."
The fees for leagues, charged per season, are as follows: softball, $100 per team; basketball, $50 per team; tennis, $10 per person; racquetball, $10 per person; horseshoes, $10 per person.
Tournaments for all sports cost $100 each. Reserving practice facilities costs $10 per hour for softball and $7 per hour for all other uses.
Non-city residents will be charged an additional $10 each for leagues.
The cost for reserving a pavilion will be $15 for a half-day and $25 for a full day.
The tournament fees are especially onerous for the horseshoe club because the state horseshoe organization limits entry fees to $10 apiece. The fee schedule now makes it impossible for the club to stage tournaments, said member E. . Kirk.
"You can write in that (newspaper) that they just folded the Brooksville Horseshoe Club," he told reporters after the meeting.
For information about the fees, call the city at 544-5495.