Paying to park: North Tahoe utility relies on attendants, honor system to collect summer parking fees | SierraSun.com

Paying to park: North Tahoe utility relies on attendants, honor system to collect summer parking fees

Julie Brown
Sierra Sun

Lacking machines that guarantee drivers pay to park, the North Tahoe Public Utility District is looking to staff kiosks, issue citations and rely on the honor system to capture parking revenues this summer.

But without an automated parking system, the district will be hard pressed to collect the full revenue that could be generated from parking fees.

“We want people to realize that they need to pay even when there is not somebody at the entrance,” said Kathy Long, Parks and Facilities manager. “The ordinance says you have to pay whether there is someone there or not.”

District employees will be stationed at the Kings Beach State Recreation Area’s kiosk during periods of heavy traffic flow this summer to collect a flat rate for parking, Long said.

Judging when to staff the kiosk, however, will be difficult, Long said. The parking revenue must at least pay for the attendant’s wages and hopefully capture additional revenue for the beach maintenance.

The district will also increase the number of signs at the beach parking lot notifying drivers of the flat rates, and will issue citations for those vehicles who entered without paying.

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“All we ask is that they pay their fee,” Long said.

Parking revenue and the concessionaire stationed at the beach are the only funds that support the Kings Beach State Recreation Area. And all of the money generated at the beach must be used to maintain and clean up the lakefront public property.

“That’s really our objective, to be self-sufficient there,” said district Chief Financial Officer Larry Marple.

A parking gate is also absent from the entrance to the North Tahoe Regional Park. Both gates were taken down last summer because the systems continually malfunctioned.

But the regional park will not hire a kiosk attendant to collect fees this summer, relying entirely on honest drivers to pay their way.

Over the course of last fiscal year, 2006/2007, the North Tahoe Regional Park earned more than $14,000 in parking revenue. The automated gate was installed for most of that year.

So far this fiscal year, however, the park has captured only $5,731, including the revenue collected during the busy summer months. More than half of that amount, $3,100, was captured when the gate was still installed.

“You can see that we’re looking at half or even less without the gates,” Marple said.

Parking revenue is not as crucial at the regional park as it is at the Kings Beach State Recreation Area because Measure C supplements the park’s maintenance cost, Marple said. District residents can drive into the Regional Park for free year-round.

The numbers analyzing parking revenues since the gate was taken down at the Kings Beach State Recreation Area, however, are difficult to compare, Marple said. The gates were in place at the Kings Beach recreation area during the summer months of this fiscal year. But they were not installed until the fall of the prior fiscal year.

“It’s not exactly apples to apples,” he said. “In general, I don’t think it ended up being much different.”

Through February of this fiscal year, the Kings Beach State Recreation area has collected more than $90,000 in parking fees, $3,000 more than at this point last year.

District staff is keeping their eyes open for additional methods to enforce parking fees. Discouraged by the gates’ malfunctions last year, staff will likely go another route.

“I don’t want to limit it to any particular method,” Marple said. “I think we want to look at the overall picture again.”