Missoula parks and rec proposes fee increases to cover maintenance, user costs

Donna Gaukler, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, shows off the newly opened portions of Fort Missoula Regional Park earlier this year. The city is proposing fee increases for all park facilities to cover the cost of maintenance and other needs. (Missoula Current)

The Department of Parks and Recreation on Wednesday sought preliminary approval to increase the fees that come with using the city’s park facilities and reserving fields for games and tournaments.

From use of Fort Missoula Regional Park to admission to Splash and Currents, the proposed increases are intended to help cover the cost of running the facilities, their programs and associated maintenance.

“Missoula has long supported recreational programs and facilities,” said recreation manager Shirley Kinsey. “It’s been a long-standing philosophy of (City Council) and Parks and Recreation that generally we’d like those who directly benefit from use of the facilities and services to minimally cover the direct expense of those facilities and services.”

As proposed to the City Council’s Parks and Conservation Committee, Splash and Currents would see admission increases to $4.50 per youth, $6.75 per adult and $5 for a senior.

While the fees would help cover the increasing cost of maintaining the facilities, the boost raised concerns from some that it could impact families on fixed incomes.

The committee asked for a breakdown of users and how much revenue the increases would generate. A public hearing has been set for Jan. 8.

“We feel we’ve done everything we possibly can to increase revenue and hold expenditures in check,” Kinsey said regarding the aquatic facilities. “So we’re looking at a 50-cent increase in gate fees. We totally understand trying to keep fees as low as possible.”

Parks director Donna Guakler added, “As a department and as a city, we’re all about making sure those without the resources have access.”

Fees would increase across all categories, some more than others. Renting the McCormick and Northside softball fields for a day-long tournament would increase from $120 to $130, while reserving the Little League diamonds would increase over each of the next three summers to $7.50 per team, per hour by 2020.

The multi-use fields at Fort Missoula would jump by a few dollars, depending on the field, as would reserving the tennis and pickleball courts. The increases there go to a special enterprise fund intended to cover the cost of resurfacing the courts when needed.

Special events at the Moon-Randolf Homestead would also increase from $400 to $450 per day. The cost of hosting a wedding at the historic facility would increase from $1,000 to $1,150. Increases there would enable the property’s caretakers to make improvements and keep pace with maintenance.

“They try and generate additional revenue for the homestead to do projects,” Gaukler said. “Their recommendation is based on what they’re seeing and the amount of work they’re doing. This fee increase is the first one I’ve seen in five or six years.”

The complete fee schedule will be considered by the City Council next month.