FLORENCE — The Pinal County Board of Supervisors approved updated park fees Wednesday.
Kent Taylor, Pinal County Open Space and Trails director, told the board the goal was to keep fees affordable, simple and consistent. The fees for ramadas, ball fields and other amenities are to reserve those facilities and are not for normal “drop-in” or day use, which remains free. Trail fees are only collected for organized commercial events. Ramada and campsite reservations are the department’s most common service requests, Taylor said.
Ramada reservations are $10 per day, and group ramada reservations are $35 per day. Other fees are overnight camping, $10 per night; ball field lights, $10 per hour; ball field reservations, $40 per day; and multigenerational center room reservations, $25 per hour with a two-hour minimum.
Peralta Regional Park near the Superstition Mountains, opening in a year or so, will charge $7 per vehicle. Supervisor Kevin Cavanaugh, R-Coolidge, noted, “It sometimes makes me uncomfortable having to pay to enter public land” and asked why it’s necessary at times.
Taylor said federal parks officials might say it’s “sustainable recreation. … And to be clear, we’re only proposing that for our regional park. We’re not proposing that for any of the existing parks.” From the viewpoint of outdoor resources protection, “we’re trying to thread the needle between having too much use and no use, and charging fees is one way we meter that,” Taylor said.
Board Chairman Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, agreed that if visitors pay something, they have “more respect” for the resource, and at times usage is high.
Fees only cover a small part of the county’s costs to offer parks, about 2.9% of expenditures in recent years, Taylor said. The county expects to collect less than $11,000 in fees in the new fiscal year, with the vast majority, about $9,100, coming from West Pinal Park camping fees.
The Pinal County Open Space and Trails Advisory Commission voted 6-2 to recommend in favor of the fee update. Some commissioners said fees of any amount are a burden to low-income areas of the county; the county should continue funding operations and maintenance with limited or no fees; and they didn’t want to add or change fees for outdoor recreation during the pandemic.
Elizabeth Butler of Apache Junction, chairwoman of the commission, asked the board to approve the fee update.