We feel some consideration should be given to locals putting on a charity event and believe Greene County should reconsider its current fee schedule for parks reservations, especially as it relates to charity groups.
When one considers the reservation fee one local charity group would have to pay to use a Jamestown park for its scholarship fundraiser, it seems obvious that what Greene County currently charges is excessive.
We understand that parks are not free. They don’t happen just by making a declaration or cutting a ribbon. We consider Greene County’s Parks and Trails to be some of, if not the best in the area. Undoubtedly many hours of hard work go into the maintenance of Greene County’s parks and trails, and those hours cost money. But charging $600 for a charity event? We don’t see an explanation that justifies such a charge.
At Thursday’s Greene County Commissioners meeting, a group representing a charity event called Connor’s Kickball Challenge made an appearance, asking for help with a fee the group was being asked to pay for their event.
The event, which raises scholarship funds for local high school students, was organized by the family of Connor Wallace, a Greeneview High School student who was killed in an ATV accident. Connor’s father, Jon Wallace, spoke at the board meeting and asked that commissioners waive or reduce a $600 reservation fee that the group would have been charged to hold the event, a kickball tournament, at Frank Seaman Park in Jamestown. Wallace noted that the charge would eat up about 25 percent of what the tournament was projected to raise.
At the board meeting, county officials noted that rules and policies are put in place for a reason and that changing fees for one group would set a precedent and would put them on a slippery slope. After all, if one charity group asks for fees to be reduced or waived, what’s to keep the next charity group from doing the same? This is an understandable point. Fees and reservation policies are put in place for a reason.
Parks aren’t free – but charity is, and we feel there should be some consideration to help local individuals putting on a charity outing. One cannot forget that in this case those trying to put on the event are taxpaying residents of Greene County trying to raise money for scholarships.
What about the $600 fee that the charity group was asked to pay? What does that money purchase? According to Greene County Parks & Trails – which manages Frank Seaman Park – the fee would reserve the seven baseball diamonds at the park for the event, pay for mowing and portable restrooms at the site.
How reasonable is this fee? We did some research and examined parks in the area to see what they would charge for a similar event. Some of the local facilities were not comparable to Frank Seaman Park due to having a fewer number of diamonds than the Jamestown park offers. For those parks, we extrapolated their offerings out to make them similar (as if they also offered the seven diamonds).
While this method does not provide a perfect one-to-one comparison, it at least gives a general idea for what a local park might charge if it had similar offerings. Here’s what we found:
- Fairborn – Fairfield Park: seven diamonds at a rate of $25 each for non-lighted fields (five diamonds) and $50 each for lighted fields (two diamonds), which means a $225 fee for a comparable event
- Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Parks – Sackett-Wright Park: one diamond at a rate of $25 per use (extrapolated to the comparable seven diamonds), which means a $175 fee for a comparable event
- Beavercreek: four diamonds at a rate of $75 each (extrapolated to the comparable seven diamonds), which means a $525 fee for a comparable event
While this is not a perfect system of comparison, it certainly seems to show what we and many others have thought about the situation at hand: a $600 reservation fee is excessive. When we also consider the nature of the event, a charity fundraiser, it seems obvious to us to ask that the county reconsider its pricing schedule for this type of park reservation.
Common sense dictates that a $600 reservation fee for a charity group is much too high. Perhaps an alternative would be that the group could pay a much smaller fee ($25? $50?) to reserve the park for the day and agree to provide the labor to make sure the park is clean when it leaves. Perhaps Greene County Parks & Trails could examine reservation requests on a case-by-case basis and allow charity groups to use facilities at no cost or a reduced rate. The parks agency, which itself relies on fees and donations, would either need to see a greater commitment of county funds or from donations.
These are not perfect solutions, but they would at least be steps in the right direction – that is, away from charging a charity group $600 to raise scholarship funds for high school kids. We hope that Greene County officials implement such changes.
We are happy to note that following media coverage of the original story, approximately two dozen individuals and groups stepped forward to volunteer funds to pay the reservation fee on behalf of the Connor’s Kickball Challenge event.