Since 1977 fees have been a normal part of Clark County Parks. In 1991, entry fees were changed to parking fees and the rate was set at $2.00. Then in 2010 the $2.00 daily fee was raised to $3.00 and a annual pass were offered for $40. This week Clark County Commissioners set in motion the process to remove these fees from the six county-owned regional parks and boat launches.
Sitting down with Commissioner Madore, we asked him about his campaign promise to remove parking fees. With a smile he said, “You know several individuals have said, oh, this is just a campaign promise and when you find out what the facts really are, people make un-informed campaign promises, so its “o.k” to back down from that. In reality what they are really saying is that you are saying something like a gimmick or a trick to get elected. And that is the farthest thing from the way it ought to work. Anybody who is going to run for office can envision a smarter solution, can cast a vision for a better quality of life. And that was really it in my case. You want to find out what I’m doing, what I’ve already done, look at my campaign website…so this is something to fulfill a commitment that says I stand on my integrity.”
Park fees had to go through a formal process before they became code or law. Madore commented, “In order to change that or undo that, you need to go through the same formal process.” That process, once the commissioners decide to go ahead, entails giving a ten day notice, invite the public in to a hearing so they can have a voice. And that according to Commissioner Madore, “fulfills the lawful requirement to remove these fees.”
When asked how the public hearing will help the county commissioners, Commissioner Madore responded, “If the hearings really have a purpose, that is to hear. Then you really cannot go in thinking that I’ve already made up my mind. You really need to go in and make sure you are listening. If there is some insight that citizens can provide, then we really do consider that. Then at the end of that hearing … and when I understand the plus’ and minus’, you can cast a vote.”
Commissioner Madore said he’s heard citizens say the following:
“Parking fees are a revenue generator and the county can do more stuff with it.”
“If you don’t pay a fee you won’t appreciate it.”
“People will vandalize the park, people wont be well behaved” (Without fees).
“In reality the fees were put in for one reason – financial. Cuts were being made; we just can’t afford it so we have to cut them. So the reason they (park fees) were put on in the first place is the reason we ought to consider removing them. It is the appropriate thing to restore the free use of our parks to those citizens, when many of them are having a hard time making ends meet.”
If the fees are removed, will staff and services be cut? “It is very important for people to understand this does not cut staff at all, this does not make any cuts… there will be better visibility of authority… staff will be more effective at the parks because they can pay attention to the people in the park.”, remarked Madore.
Summarizing the parking fee issue, Commission Madore closes with, “This is one way that county government can serve our citizens better. It would be so refreshing that finally we get something back from our tax dollars and this is one way to do it.”
On Wednesday, March 13, 2013, the commissioners started the process to remove park fees. The next step is a public hearing in which Clark County residents can give their input. The hearing is scheduled to be held March 31st at 10:00 am in the hearing room on the sixth floor of the Public Service Center, 1300 Franklin Street, Vancouver, WA.