Park fees may jump under new proposal


HILO — Fees to use park pavilions would more than double and fees for other county facilities would also jump under rule changes proposed by the Department of Parks and Recreation.

The increases in fees for picnic pavilions, ballparks, community centers, gymnasiums and rodeo arenas are needed to keep up with increasing costs, said Parks and Recreation spokesman Jason Armstrong. He noted that fees haven’t been increased in more than 10 years.

The use of county swimming pools, parks and the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo will continue to be free, Armstrong said. He said no fees are being added, only increased.

The department has scheduled separate public hearings for 5 p.m. May 28 to be held concurrently at the West Hawaii Civic Center in Kona and the Aupuni Center conference room in Hilo. After evaluating public input, the Parks and Recreation Department can set the fees without a County Council vote.

The increases are expected to add, conservatively, $110,500 to the department’s roughly $7 million maintenance budget. The fees are structured so that money-making and commercial functions and professional promoters shoulder a larger part of the burden, Armstrong said.

“We’re trying to raise fees to keep up with the operating costs that have risen,” Armstrong said. “We’re looking to shift some of that cost to the commercial segment who use our parks to make a profit.”

Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha, chairman of the council Committee on Public Works and Parks and Recreation, said the department had broached the discussion of increased fees during its recent budget presentation but didn’t go into detail. Kanuha agrees increases are needed.

“We all want to use these facilities. But it’s hard to enjoy them when sinks don’t work and the paint is peeling,” Kanuha said. “I think everybody understands that and would be willing to pay a little bit more for better facilities.”

Kanuha said the employees are hard-working and the department does the best it can with it has, but he added, “For me, with these increases, we expect to see better-maintained parks.”

The fees at most county picnic pavilions for the public or groups not seeking to make money, so-called “non-benefit” functions, would increase from $10 to $25 under the proposal. Use of kitchens at the facilities would add $25 per day.

Those conducting an activity for a benefit, such as a fundraiser, would continue to be charged $50 a day, plus $25 for the kitchen, and professional promoters would be charged $300, up from $200.

Exceptions include several of the larger pavilions on both the east and west side of the island.

Renting the Mooheau Park bandstand and concession area would cost $100 for nonbenefit functions, compared to $35 per day currently. Money-makers and professional promoters would pay $200 and $400, respectively.

The county retained the existing state rates for the Old Kona Airport Park when it took over in 2008. The proposed new rates for the special events pavilion would climb to $250 a day from $125 for nonbenefit functions. Commercial functions would cost $400 a day, and professional promoters would pay $1,000.

Ballfields would remain free for nonbenefit athletics activity and $100 for non-benefit nonathletics activity. Nonathletics events, however, will incur a $12/hour charge for lighting. Commercial ventures would pay $200 per day for non-athletics events or $50 per day, $15 per team per season for athletics events. Professional promoters would pay $400 per day, up from $200.

Gymnasiums would be free for nonbenefit athletics events, while nonbenefit nonathletics events would continue to cost $100 a day and professional promoters would be charged $1,000 a day, up from $500. Commercial ventures would pay $200 per day for non-athletics events or $50 per day, $15 per team per season for athletics events.

Community centers would still be $100 per day for nonbenefit functions. Professional promoters would pay $1,000 a day, up from $500.

“We feel that County Parks and Recreation provides exceptional value and we would hope that the public would consider the reasons why we’re proposing a fee increase,” Armstrong said.