Fees changed for some outdoor recreation facilities

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By Kassidy Christensen


Council unanimously approved final reading of an amendment to the Rate Bylaw concerning outdoor recreation rates.

The original bylaw amendment included changes to rates for the Little Bow Campground, ball diamonds, soccer fields, tennis courts and the Spray Park and was brought forward in the March 26 meeting. Topics discussed included shared use agreements with the tennis and pickleball clubs for use of the tennis courts in town. Council ultimately removed the tennis courts rental rates from the approved motion.

Shared use agreements with the tennis and pickleball clubs were later addressed by council during the April 23 meeting.

“Outdoor recreation rates have not been amended since 2016,” town documents stated. “Since that time a new recreation facilities bylaw, and recreation rate structure policy have been implemented.”

“Staff have applied the principles of those documents so that the outdoor rates are in alignment with best business practices,” according to council notes.

Craig Stanley, town manager of parks and recreation, said discussions took place in November 2017 regarding concerns with the recreation facilities’ rates.

He said among the rates there was a “lack of clarity” in the structure and “inconsistencies in the application and usage.”

“Several of the rates were undervalued,” Stanley said.

Stanley said, per season, minor ball was paying $108 per team.

“We extrapolated the hours they used and what they had paid and we came out with $1.50 an hour for the ball field,” Stanley said.

At the time, he said the rates would come into effect April 1.

Discussions took place with user groups to advise them of the rate changes, he said.

“As per the recreation rate structure, the adult rate is the base rate of 100 per cent, the senior rate is 85 per cent and the student youth and child is 65 per cent,” Stanley said. “We don't do drop-ins for outdoor facilities, we have straight rentals."

The outdoor rates were amended to be charged hourly like the indoor rates, he said.

“We also assigned a high, medium and low categorization to the fields based on the condition, quality and service level, and that is standard business practice with regards to outdoor fields,” Stanley said.

Some properties with the Foothills School Division (FSD) are shared use, however a formal contract or shared use agreement had not been completed, just a handshake agreement, he said.

“We will enter into a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) so we will get to assign their fields,” Stanley said. “We will collect the revenue and in consideration for use of those fields… For 2019 we do intend to have a formal shared use agreement with both school divisions."

Town documents stated Little Bow Campground overnight fees are now $147.62 per night and day use is $33.33 per hour. The group and single overnight rates were removed, it is stated.

Rental rates per hour in 2018 for ball diamonds in town are as follows:

- Adult, high $13.81, medium $8.76, and low $5.81

- Senior, high $11.74, medium $7.45, and low $4.94

- Pre-school/child/youth and school, high $2.99, medium $1.90, and low $1.26

- Commercial and non-resident, high $16.57, medium $10.51, and low $6.97

According to council notes, “high” field types include George Lane Memorial Park, Birchwood Park (large), the Bob Snodgrass Recreation Complex and Highwood High School. “Medium” includes Birchwood Park (small) and “low” are Joe Clark and Spitzee Elementary Schools.

Soccer field rental rates per hour according to the agenda are as follows:

- Adult, high $4.76, medium $3.17 and low $2.11

- Senior, high $4.05, medium $2.70 and low $1.80

- Pre-school/child/youth and school, high $3.10, medium $2.06 and low $1.37

- Commercial and non-resident, high $5.71, medium $3.81 and low $2.54

Types of fields within the “high” category include Birchwood Park, George Lane Memorial Park, Highwood High School and Charles Clark Park. The “medium” category includes FSD properties and “low” is the Town Farm, documents stated.

Rental rates for the Spray Park per hour is $95.24 for adults, $80.95 for seniors, $61.90 for pre-school/child/youth and schools, and $114.29 for commercial and non-residents, documents stated.

“The Spray Park is only rented out for private functions when (the) facility is not open to the public,” it is stated. “Admission to the Spray Park is free during public open times.”

Stanley said rate changes that were more than 100 per cent – for example minor ball, which falls under the youth and school rates for ball diamonds – would be phased in over three years.

“(The) 2018 rate represents one third of the future full rate,” documents stated, in regards to the ball diamond youth and school rates.

“Soccer … had not registered or paid for field usage,” Stanley said, noting there are no town owned or operated soccer fields.

“They do use whatever flats are available … we won't phase their rates in because they're going from paying (zero dollars) to paying $3.04 an hour for a soccer field so there was no need to phase that in,” he said.

Stanley noted the Christ the Redeemer School Division will be charging $20 for locals and $80 for non-residents for the use of the soccer field at Notre Dame Collegiate.

“The recommended rates are within market range,” Stanley said. “Meaning we're quite a bit lower but we don't want to currently go out and charge market rate for our services.”

Coun. Bruce Masterman asked how minor ball felt about the rate increase.

“Minor ball was initially discouraged,” Stanley said. “But after discussions with us they realized that was our high rate and they don't always use the high rate fields.”

The group would be able to accommodate the three-year phased-in increased, Stanley added.

Coun. Carol MacMillan asked, considering there is no drop-in, whether it is free if residents want to go play soccer.

"No, the way we assign outdoor field use is by user group,” Stanley said. “If somebody were to just drop a soccer ball in the middle of the park and kick it around, we don’t assign use in our public spaces that way.”

He said the town schedules the use for which user groups pay a fee. In a situation where an impromptu soccer game were to take place during a user group’s scheduled time, the user group has the right to that space, he added.

Coun. Michael Nychyk asked for clarification on the school divisions’ ball and soccer fields.

“We have care, custody and control agreements with the schools for these properties that we're going to charge fees for?” Nychyk asked.

“The MOU that we are drafting and have (had) discussion with the FSD is new,” Stanley said.

Stanley said as an example, at Highwood High School, school division maintenance cares for the outfield whereas the town maintains the infield.

“We collect the fees for the use of that field and we schedule the use of that field, that was the handshake agreement,” Stanley said.

Keep reading the High River Times for more on the agreements reached with the tennis and pickleball clubs.




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