New entrance fees this past summer at two St. Mary’s County parks have been called a success. The county commissioners approved last May having entrance fees at Myrtle Point Park and Elms Beach Park on weekends and holidays during the summer. The fees were intended to control parking at Elms and illegal activities at Myrtle Point by generating revenue to pay for staff at the two parks,
Recreation and Parks Director Phil Rollins told the county commissioners on Tuesday that the entrance fees generated $21,000 in revenue to cover staffing costs of $19,000. Commissioner Cynthia Jones (R: 1st) observed the revenue neutrality of the program. “I think it was very successful,” she said.
There was a tiered entrance fee schedule of $5 per car per visit for county residents and $10 for non-county residents, a $20 season pass for county residents and a $15/visit for vans. Three-thousand vehicles visited the two parks on the days covered. That included 10,000 people, of which 60 percent were countians.
Rollins said the recreation and parks board has made some suggested changes if the program is implemented next summer, including starting the fees on May 1 instead of Memorial Day weekend, adding a non-county resident season pass for $40, having a pass for just one park, and eliminating the van fee since it was so little used. They also recommended extending the parking area for Myrtle Point to the entrance road since people park there and walk in.
Another recommendation was to have the fee apply from dawn instead of 8 a.m. on the days covered.
Rollins noted that additional signage was being installed. Commissioner Daniel Morris (R; 2nd) noted that the signage was bilingual and asked if there were many Hispanics coming to the park. Rollins said there were, to which Morris responded, “It may not be politically correct but this is America and we speak English. I have a problem with that.”
During the discussion in May about imposing the fees, Commissioner Lawrence Jarboe (R: 3rd) argued against fees for county residents to access waterfront areas. Jarboe renewed that opposition at Tuesday’s meeting. Rollins said there wouldn’t be enough revenue generated from non-county residents to cover the staff cost.
Morris asked that some consideration be given to giving free season passes to the county’s senior citizens. Rollins said they didn’t track the age of those coming into the two parks, but it was something to consider.
At a public forum last spring, several members of the Friends of Myrtle Point complained about illegal activity there. Volunteer Mary Piotrowski put the problem in some perspective. She said a website that shows good locations for sexual encounters listed Myrtle Point as one of the ideal locations because there was no supervision.
Also at the public forum, Bob Boxwell, another Friends member, said, “We have always thought there needs to be a presence there.” He added, “It is becoming a party place for youth. Recreatio