Changes to park use fees are prompting questions about what the new costs will mean for sports in Nelson.
A staff memo presented to city council on April 11 sets new charging methods and fees for anyone using park space. The changes were a surprise to Nelson Baseball Association president Russell Stocks, who expressed concern his organization won’t be able to afford the city’s demands.
Previously, the city didn’t charge the association for use of baseball diamonds at Lions Park and Queen Elizabeth Park.
“I think we expect to pay,” said Stocks. “Obviously we can’t continue to put money back into the fields at the same rate [as we do now]. The big thing this year is just the timing. We’ve solidified our registration, we have our budget for the year and to have potentially a large [bill] for field use, we don’t know what it’s going to be yet. But based on last year’s usage it could be anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000.”
As Stocks spoke, volunteers nearby were busy cleaning up the QE Park diamond. The city recently installed fences along the left- and right-field lines after cutting down several aging poplar trees that had grown too big, but maintenance of the field is left to the association.
Stocks said he didn’t want to overreact to the changes until he had an opportunity to speak with city officials in person.
He estimated the association has invested roughly $30,000 into the fields over the last five years.
He also plans on requesting a yearlong reprieve from the new costs.
“We’re doing and have done most of the maintenance and work on the ball part of the field so now we’ve got to talk about our expectations,” he said. “We get our membership out with this labour, we get a lot of material donated as we have in the past. But do we continue to do that and can we be sustainable doing that as an organization? I guess that’s the question. With our current registration fees that’s going to be tough.”
Stocks’ financial concerns weren’t shared by Nelson Youth Soccer executive director Sveta Tisma.
Previously, the city charged NYS per registrant for its use of Lakeside Park fields. Under the new plan, NYS will pay a flat fee for use of the fields, which Tisma said could save the organization up to $300 a week compared to last year.
“We save money so it really doesn’t matter to us,” said Tisma. “I just expect they do their due diligence about certain things. We have our field manager who does a lot of work and we pay them out of our own pocket. That should be city work.”
The fees will also apply for the first time to School District 8. There is uncertainty about under what circumstance schools will need to pay for parks, and superintendent Jeff Jones said he was hesitant to comment prior to receiving clarification from the city.
“For us to contemplate having to pay to use a field for baseball or soccer, it presents a new set of challenges in terms of how we allocate our resources,” said Jones.
L.V. Rogers has a baseball team that plays at QE Park, and its classes occasionally use park space for various outings. LVR principal Tim Huttemann declined to comment before a planned meeting Friday with a city official to discuss the changes.
Stocks said the new fees will be worth it if the city reinvests into the fields.
“We’re proud of what we have at this point and hopefully we can continue working with the city just to keep improving it every year.
“But this makes it a challenge because the budget we use to put into the field and the equipment we have, now it’s going to have to go to the city.”