How Much Would You Pay to Keep Kitsap Parks Alive?

Kitsap County’s Parks and Recreation Department needs to start thinking more like business, less like a library.

That’s the recommendation of the Kitsap County Parks and Recreation Sustainability Task Force, headed by former county commissioner Patty Lent, which today made its recommendations to the Board of Commissioners.

Find out more about the task force here.

Along with better tracking of its services and how much they cost – right down to the time it takes to change a roll of toilet paper in a county facility rest room – the department needs to increase its user and admission fees (last adjusted in 2003).

Members of the task force and county commissioners discussed the potential danger of setting user and admission fees too high. North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer spoke of keeping parks programs accessible to Kitsap residents of all income levels.
“We need to be careful how we do it,” he said. “We could focus on raising revenue and kill the program.”

If your group meets at a county building, how much would you be willing or able to pay? If your family takes part in county recreational programs, how much of a fee increase could you afford?

What Kitsap County Parks and Recreation facilities do you or your family use? Do you have a favorite park? Tell me about it.


Task Force Recommends Increased Fees for County Parks and Recreation

Parks department must start thinking more like a business, group says.
By Chris Henry
chenry@kitsapsun.com
PORT ORCHARD
Citizens who use Kitsap County Parks and Recreation facilities will see an increase in fees for some services if county commissioners take the advice of a specially appointed task force on parks sustainability.
The Kitsap County Parks and Recreation Sustainability Task Force, headed by former county commissioner Patty Lent, today made its recommendations to the Board of Commissioners. The nine-member task force was formed in August to advise the board on short- and long-term strategies for keeping Parks and Recreation going in the face of a budget deficit that threatens so-called “discretionary” spending, such as parks maintenance.
Lent presented a list of recommendations aimed at increasing efficiency and generating operating revenue for Parks and Recreation facilities.
The group’s primary observation, said Lent, was that the department lacks a process for tracking what it has to do and how much it costs to do it. The task force suggests that the county develop a parks master plan to establish priorities within the department. Historically, the lack of such a plan has led to “ineffectiveness and inefficiencies” the group’s report says.
Next, said Lent, the department must inventory all tasks required to maintain its facilities — right down to the cost of mopping up muddy footprints after community meetings in parks buildings. Doing so will allow the department to better track its budget and establish a basis for the recommended increase in fees, she said. Fees were last increased in 2003.
The task force did not address where and how fees should be increased, other than to say groups now using county facilities at no cost should be expected to chip in for maintenance.
The group did recommend that the Kitsap County Fairgrounds and Events Center become a wholly self-sustaining entity within the parks department. Currently, events such as the Haunted Fairgrounds and Kitsap County Fair & Stampede generate considerable revenue, but not enough to offset costs, said Lent.
Under the group’s proposal, the Events Center would be professionally managed, either by an outside company or with current staff, to operate like a business. Fees would be adjusted not to generate a profit, but to provide a sustainable source of income to the department. Corporate sponsorships should also be more aggressively sought to offset the cost of hosting events, the group advised.
Members of the task force and county commissioners discussed the potential danger of setting user and admission fees too high. North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer spoke of keeping parks programs accessible to Kitsap residents of all income levels.
“We need to be careful how we do it,” he said. “We could focus on raising revenue and kill the program.”
Other task force recommendations included:
Adding online registration for parks programs to the county’s Web site.
Increasing the role of the existing Parks Advisory Board.
Filling a vacant position for parks planner to relieve current staff and achieve more effective long-ranging planning for parks.
And shifting the county’s focus from offering recreation programs to becoming a regional coordinator of existing public and private recreational offerings.
Join a conversation about Kitsap County parks at Speaking of South Kitsap, a blog at www.kitsapsun.com.

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