Wallingford’s Parks and Recreation Department has proposed eliminating an exemption for nonprofit organizations using its parks. This would be bad news for groups such as the Wallingford Family YMCA and the Ulbrich Boys & Girls Club, which would have to start paying fees that could eventually reach $800 per day to use the parks to run their summer activities.
These are not commercial operations, after all, but groups that for a long time have provided valuable services to the community. If they have to pay anything to use the parks, it should be as little as the town can manage, and not an increase that will quadruple in a few years.
Parks and Recreation Director Kenny Michaels has created a six-year implementation plan under which, for the first three years, the groups would be charged 25 percent of the full facility fee, or $200 per day. After that, the fees would be increased. Prior to implementing the full charge of $800 per day in the sixth year, the arrangement would be reassessed.
Although that would cushion the financial shock for the nonprofits, Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. was right to call this a “major concern.”
Michaels holds that the new fees would help cover maintenance, repairs and other costs, thus reducing the cost to taxpayers. He also suggests that the use of the parks by the nonprofits limits their use by the general public. It was not clear, though, whether the public has complained about that.
The nonprofits counter that the fees would impact working parents the most, perhaps making summer camp unaffordable for many, and that if the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club had to drop such services because of the increased cost, the town might come under pressure to take up the slack, in some way, at some cost.
And after more than a year of various levels of lockdown and “remote learning,” it would be a shame if any kids weren’t able to get out in the fresh air this summer because their parents can’t afford to pay for camp.