Park fees to increase
For the first time in years, park and recreation fee rates for Rifle Mountain Park and other recreation areas in Rifle increased for 2017. Rifle City Council approved of the rate increase at the January 18 meeting as the hope is to keep more tourism dollars in town.
“A lot of fees don’t get adjusted regularly and we are trying to do it on a regular basis to keep up with things,” said Parks and Recreation Director Tom Whitmore.
A county road bisects the park so to get to Rifle Mountain Park out-of-town travelers can take roads through New Castle and Silt or other neighboring towns meaning that their tourism dollars may never be spent in Rifle. It also means that since the parking lot is on the honor system and costs $5 for the day, it can easily be abused since people can drive in and out of the park without ever paying.
“Folks that come to Mountain Park often don’t stay at Rifle,” Whitmore said. “Right now Silt and New Castle get most of the tourism dollars so we want to try to get out-of-towners to visit Rifle.”
Many of the park fee increases were determined by cost of service, but some were determined through introspection. The Rifle Mountain Park Community House fees saw some of the steepest increase of any because Whitmore felt that they were “really too low because it was cheaper to go to the community house rather than set up a picnic outside.”
Community House fees increased to $45 for Rifle residents and community groups for Sunday through Thursday and $80 for Friday and Saturday. Nonresidential rates were $55 for Sunday through Thursday and $110 for Friday and Saturday.
Another fee that increased was the cost for a second vehicle pass at Rifle Mountain Park. The pass now costs $10 for Rifle residents, $15 for Garfield County residents and $25 for non-Colorado residents, an increase of $5 for each. Whitmore said that the impact of vehicles on the park is one of the main reasons that it is necessary to hire city staff and Rifle Police to look after the park. Because the impact of vehicles is so great, Whitmore determined that the fee needed to be increased.
While the payment schedule remains unchanged for residents compared to non-residents, the rate increase for 2017 continued to try to make it more cost-effective for residents than ever before.
“We try to make it as economically beneficial to residents of Rifle as possible,” Whitmore explained. “The fees are to offset the cost of labor. If we didn’t have labor the park would become overrun.”
The park needs to pay for the cost of maintenance, staffing, and restroom maintenance and would love to be able to pay more police officers to help look after the park, which would allow them to collect more revenue through parking fees in the future.
Whitmore estimated that the revenue collected through fees helps to offset 75 percent of the cost to run the park. The other 25 percent comes from the parks and recreation fund.
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