New park fee is keeping charities away

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Thousands of families walk through Forest Park each year to raise money for a good cause, but many of them won’t be there this year.

Up until now, the people holding these events would have to pay the city a flat fee to cover things like police, park employees, maybe a little trash pick-up, but now the city is asking for a 10% cut off the top of what’s raised at these events as well.

The new fee pushed organizers of the big Multiple Sclerosis walk to move their event to Stanley Park in Westfield.

“To want to take 10% of what we’re bringing in, that’s a lot of money,” said Lori Bernier.

Bernier’s daughter Corinne has multiple sclerosis. She told us they’re hoping to raise $75,000 at their annual walk this year, and they can’t justify giving away 10%.

“So 7500 dollars gone to the people who need those funds to the city of Springfield? It doesn’t make any sense,” Bernier said.

Springfield Parks Director Pat Sullivan agreed to talk to the I-Team about the recently imposed fee. He claims they’re doing it for the taxpayer.

“What happens is that it takes the park away from the resident for that day because there are so many people who might come in for that event that it’s no longer open to the public and that’s our primary mission is to serve the residents,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan claims the park becomes too crowded on those days and it keeps some people from visiting. When asked if the city is making money off of charities, Sullivan says they’re not.

“I think it’s reimbursing the city for the use because it’s going toward the wear and tear on the park,” Sullivan said.

To see how the cost compares,  the I-Team went to Stanley Park in Westfield, which is a private park, meaning they operate through donations, not tax dollars, like Forest Park.

Lisa Gadreault told us they have a flat fee they’ll pass on when there’s are a lot of people. “Trash disposal is around $86, rangers are about $18 an hour,” Gadreault said.

Compare that to the $25 to $30 thousand the new fee is projected to bring in from charitable walks this year for Springfield, but the MS Society says none of that will come from them.

“I’m sorry, let’s just go to where we’re not going to have to lose that money, because people need that money,” Bernier added.

Sullivan says two charities have left because of the fee but they have gained others.

The I-Team did some extra work for you to see what other parks in our area charge for events.

PARK FEES:

  • Greenfield: Based on a per use request depending on number of people expected.  There are charges for facility supervisors, restrooms and other structure use.  They are flexible on fees with non-profits and charities.
  • Northampton: Do not usually have large charity events, most go to Look Park, which is private.  Anyone can pay standard fees for field use.
  • Agawam: Fee for duty police officer, no charge for park use.
  • Chicopee: No charge for park use.  Most organizations agree to provide porta-pottys. Clean up is part of regular park maintenance.
  • West Springfield: West Springfield residents use park facilities for free. Very rare to have large charitable events, most events are school and town organizations.
  • Look Park: Depends on the size of the event.  Events with 200 persons or less they charge for rental of the pavilion and a per car entry.  Large events have to pay for staff time and any setting up of tents, painting lines on the fields, setting up cones, etc. There is a per car entry fee.  They do not charge a percentage of proceeds.  They sometimes offer a reduced per car fee for non-profit events.
  • Westfield: They don’t usually have large events; organizations use Stanley Park, which is private.  Using a town park is no charge.
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