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FairfaxPark Authority mulls changes to fees for coming year

Park Authority mulls changes to fees for coming year

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After another pandemic-altered year, Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) officials are proposing few significant fee increases – and several reductions – for the year ahead.

“We go through this process each year, gauge the market demand and try to keep offerings and services as economical as possible,” said Michael Peter, FCPA’s administration-division director.

The Park Authority Board will hold a “virtual” community-comment meeting Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. to garner the public’s thoughts on the proposed fee changes. After evaluating staff’s proposals and fielding comments from the public, the board is set to vote on the fee package March 9. Changes will take effect April 1.

Park Authority officials are proposing the following fee changes:

• Golf: Instead of charging different fees for in-season (April-October) and off-season (November-March), officials would like to allow fees to be adjusted throughout the year based on customer demand, weather and course conditions.

FCPA officials also want to increase membership fees at Laurel Hill Golf Club in Lorton to bring them more in line with those charged by competitors. Full annual memberships for individuals would rise from $5,000 to $6,000, those for spouses and other immediate family members would go from $2,500 to $4,000, and the rate for individual weekday memberships would increase from $3,000 to $4,500.

Officials have proposed eliminating the $4 chipping-area fee at Laurel Hill Golf Course and removing group-use scheduling fees of $10 per golfer, plus greens fee, at all agency golf courses except Laurel Hill.

The Park Authority is seeking to formalize discounted driving-range passes, which until now have been special promotions. The fees would be $90 for 20 buckets of golf balls and $160 for 40 buckets. The agency also would like to eliminate the $4 fee for using the golf-practice area at Oak Marr Golf Center and reduce from $19 to $18 the 18-hole power-cart rental rate at Burke Lake Golf Center.

Fees at Jefferson District Park’s miniature-golf facility would rise significantly because of higher demand. The private-rental fee of $100 plus greens fees during off hours would rise to $200 per hour (minimum two hours); during hours when the facility is otherwise open to the public, the rate would be $300 per hour (minimum three hours).

The agency would like to begin charging a $100 two-hour rental fee for the birthday-party pavilion at Jefferson District Park, but give each participant in the group a $1 greens-fee discount.

• Managed Parks: FCPA would like to increase most fees at the Water Mine in Reston to offset increased operating costs.

Fees for wilderness camping at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax parks would rise from $3 to $5 per person per night. The agency last adjusted those fees in 2006.

• Recreation Centers: Park Authority staff are not recommending general-admission or pass-fee increases at the county’s RECenters, based on the current market and economic conditions. The charge for discount fast passes would drop from $162 to $114, while rates for indoor swimming pools would increase slightly across the board.

The agency also would raise the in-season rental rate at South Run Field House from $140 to $150 and the off-season charge from $110 to $117.

FCPA offers a recurring-bill option to help the public pay for RECenter memberships in installments.

• Reservable Picnic Areas and Shelters: Fees for picnic areas at some parks would adjust slightly up or down, depending on the offering. Tennis-court rental fees, last adjusted in 2014, would rise slightly.

• Athletic Fields: Officials would change some rental conditions to allow for sports-tourism tournaments at the fields, but would not alter current rental rates.

• Resource-Management Areas: FCPA officials would lower some off-peak rental fees at Cabell’s Mill at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park, but charge hourly fees for amphitheater usage. The agency also would like to charge rental fees at the Walney Visitor Center’s classroom pavilion, also located at that park.

The Park Authority operates about 500 fee-generating facilities that finance the agency’s Revenue and Operating Fund, which pays for personnel and operating expenses at those sites, as well as debt service on revenue bonds used for developing golf courses.

Agency leaders for many years have preferred to evaluate and tweak fees annually instead of holding off for several years and then approving larger price hikes.

“We always work to keep our expenses as low as possible and look for opportunities to cut,” said Josh Colman, FCPA’s business-office manager.

“Our services are more critical now than ever,” added agency spokesman Judy Pedersen. “The last thing we want to do is price people out of availability and participation.”

The Park Authority experienced revenue hiccups in fiscal year 2021 because of the pandemic, but managed a net increase of $634,466 over the previous year because of stringent spending controls and the heightened popularity of golf and other outdoor activities.

(Fiscal year 2021’s revenue total of about $37 million still was far off the usual total of $48 million to $50 million that officials would expect in a non-pandemic year. Owing to ongoing pandemic uncertainties and the need to regenerate lost business segments, Park Authority officials expect fiscal 2022 to resemble the previous year, revenue-wise.)

To register in advance to speak at the Jan. 19 virtual meeting, send an e-mail to parkmail@fairfaxcounty.gov. Individuals will be allotted three minutes for comments; organizations will be allowed one person to speak for five minutes.

Officials on Jan. 5 began accepting public comments on the proposals and will continue to do so through Feb. 3.

County residents can e-mail their remarks to parkmail@fairfaxcounty.gov or mail them to Attention: Public Information Office/Fee Comments, Fairfax County Park Authority, 12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 927, Fairfax, Va. 22035.

For more information about the fee changes and how to access the upcoming meeting, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/feemeeting.

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