Huron-Clinton parks plan: Higher fees, bigger offices
The Metroparks board on Thursday will consider proposals to increase daily fees to $10 from $7 and annual ones to $35 from $30; and spending $500,000 for an expansion to its administration offices.
Entrance fees may increase for the second time in three years at Huron-Clinton Metroparks at the same time parks officials plan new offices for their administrators.
On Thursday, the board that operates 13 parks throughout southeast Michigan will consider a proposal to increase daily fees to $10 from $7. During the same meeting, officials will consider a 2016 budget that includes $500,000 for an expansion to administration offices at Kensington Metropark in Brighton.
Board members expect the fee increases to pass despite some fears of sticker shock. Annual passes for 2016 already have increased to $35 from $30.
“I have some concerns,” said Bernard Parker, one of seven members on the board, and a former Wayne County commissioner. “It’s very difficult to bring a family now where everything is going up.”
The new daily rate would be double the $5 the parks charged in 2013 and put the Metroparks on the upper tier statewide. Daily fees for parks in Oakland County are $5 per day for residents, while an annual pass for Michigan state parks is $11 per car.
Combined with other fee increases, the new rates would raise at least $1.7 million for the Metroparks to offset revenues lost by decreased property values, said Robert Marans, treasurer of the board.
The parks’ $50 million budget is subsidized by a 0.21-mill tax in five counties. The system collects $3 million less in taxes per year than it did before the 2008 real-estate crash, according to its budget.
“I don’t have a problem with the fee increase,” Marans said. “We’ve got infrastructure improvements and lots of new initiatives. We want to expand our programming.”
One of those initiatives is an expansion to administration headquarters to add more office space, a conference room and file storage. It’s on the agenda for Thursday, but Marans said officials also are bouncing around another idea to build new offices at Kensington and repurpose the old ones.
The proposal baffles Toni Spears, a longtime parks volunteer from Dexter.
“I don’t mind paying higher fees if it’s necessary, but what are you choosing to spend that money on? Five hundred thousand for administrative offices? These numbers aren’t making any sense,” Spears said.
The budget also calls for increasing part-time staff hours by 45,000 hours, the equivalent of hiring 22 full-time staffers. The agency now has 190 full-time staffers.
Marans said the current administrative office is “old and needs repairs.”
Staffers estimate the daily fee increase alone would raise $1.2 million since the parks attracted 470,000 daily users last year. The board also is considering raising another $500,000 from fee increases.
Proposals up for consideration Thursday would increase the top rate for dockage at Kensington, for instance, to $800 per year from $500, while ski rentals throughout the system would rise to $15 from $13. Annual passes for senior citizens also would increase $1 to $21.
Major projects for next year include adding a toll booth and lane to the west entrance of Kensington; repaving a hike/bike trail at Lower Huron in Belleville for $250,000, and a $708,000 revamp to a boat launch site at Stony Creek in Shelby Township.
George Phifer, director of the Metroparks, did not return phone calls for comment on Tuesday. He is the system’s fifth director in seven years and had served as deputy director and police chief before being elevated to the top post in April.
The budget also calls for the parks to fill those positions. The board meets at 10:30 a.m. at its administrative offices, 13000 High Ridge Drive, Brighton.