Parks notebook

New parkland rental fees increase event costs

With their approval of a 2008 budget, members of the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB) increased the amount that organizations or individuals will have to pay to hold an event on parkland.

In the past, the MPRB has only charged rental fees for amenities like tents, sound equipment and park police, but not for the actual parkland, explained Shane Stenzel, permits manager for the Park Board. But with the board’s tight budget and a large increase in year-round park usage, they began looking at ways to generate more revenue.

Stenzel contacted cities around the county to find out how they were valuing their land. Chicago and New York City ended up having park systems that most closely resembled that of Minneapolis, and both charged parkland rental fees.

Starting this year, Minneapolis park rental will work on a tier scale. First-tier areas include large regional parks such as the chain of lakes. Renting Lake Calhoun for a public event, for example, could cost $5,000 to $20,000, depending on how much of the lake is used. Permits to use a second-tier park, such as Minnehaha Creek or Wirth Park, for a public event could run $3,000 to $10,000. And renting out a third-tier neighborhood park for public use could cost $1,500 to $6,000. Cost variations depend on the percentage of the park being used and don’t include extras such as tents or police service rental.

For organizations that hold annual events in Minneapolis parks and aren’t used to paying for the land, the new fees came as a shock. Major nonprofit events such as the Pride Festival, Walk for Animals, and the March of Dimes were hit particularly hard. The board has agreed to negotiate their fee increases, but smaller events may have to reevaluate their budgets.

“We never have any money,” said Sarah Jovet a coordinator for Red Hot Art, an art and music festival that takes place in Stevens Square Park, 1801 Stevens Ave. S., and is funded through grants and donations.

Last year, they spent around $1,600 to rent Park Board equipment and had a small amount of money leftover to pay musicians and organizers. This year, they’ll need to come up with an additional $3,000 if they plan to keep the May 31–June 1 festival in Stevens Square Park.

Jovet said they plan to ask local businesses for donations and, if all else fails, consider turning the event into a block party to avoid using the park.

Though Red Hot Art’s parkland fee could double their normal cost, some Southwest events are facing even steeper hikes. In 2007, organizers behind the Aquatennial Beach Bash at Thomas Beach on Lake Calhoun paid $1,443 in permit fees to the Park Board. This year, they’ll be forced to pay $6,964 for land rental alone.

2008 U.S. Women’s Open

Interlachen Country Club in Edina is home to this year’s United States Women’s Open. Because the club’s golf course abuts the Park Board’s Meadowbrook course, U.S. Open organizers have agreed to pay $110,000 and contributions over the next five years for use of Meadowbrook’s parking lot as a shuttle area for those traveling to Interlachen. Therefore, from June 23–29, residents hoping to practice their swings at Meadowbrook will need to park elsewhere. To keep golfers coming, however, the MPRB plans to host two shotgun tournaments each day at Meadowbrook during the Open. In addition to playing in the tournament, participants will receive a pass to go next door and watch the Open.

Park Board commissioners have yet to approve the agreement with U.S. Open officials for use of Meadowbrook’s parking lot.

City Council approves park dedication fee

On Feb. 1, the City Council approved a resolution to support the concept of a park dedication fee, which would require developers to pay $2,000 for each residential unit built as a way to compensate for altering the ratio of residents to nearby parkland. Affordable housing units that receive city, county or federal government subsidies that include units below 50 percent of the metropolitan median income would be exempt.

The resolution asks that the Park Board, which passed a park dedication ordinance last July, establish a “nexus” to prove that specific development projects cause a need for additional parkland. Officials are trying to prevent the money from being used for parkland that isn’t even close to the new development. The resolution also requires that the money be used to create new parks and make improvements or expansions, but not for maintenance or repair of existing parks.

The downside to making developers pay park dedication fees is that it could result in higher rates for renting an apartment or buying a condo. According to city documents, officials are advised to use caution to ensure that the fee doesn’t deter developers from building in Minneapolis.

The Park Board needs to approve the city’s resolution before the ordinance can move forward.

Contact Mary O’Regan at [email protected] or 436-5088.