Paying to Play: Counties may feud over rec user fees | SierraSun.com

Paying to Play: Counties may feud over rec user fees

Andrew Cristancho
Sierra Sun

Emma Garrard/Sun file photoAfter a six-month hiatus, Truckee's community pool re-opened in the spring of 2005 with a new ceiling, improved restrooms and a cleaner appearance.

Truckee in Nevada County has a pool and skate park; Placer County has lake-side amenities and a bike trail in the nearby Tahoe Basin.

Both jurisdictions need money.

Who’s going to pay?

Placer County residents might have to pay more to use parks and other recreational facilities in Truckee, according to talk at a recent Truckee-Donner Recreation and

Park District board meeting.

“We think [Placer County residents] should go to their supervisor to let him know they want to pay their fair share,” board chairman Marshall Lewis said afterward in a phone interview. “We don’t get any fees contributing to our facilities.”

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Some of the facilities in question include Donner Lake’s West End Beach, Truckee River Regional Park and the community swimming pool.

Although many of the district’s facilities charge a user’s fee, Nevada County residents and developers also pay property taxes and mitigation fees that are funneled into maintenance and construction of new recreational facilities, Lewis explained.

Nevada County Supervisor Ted Owens said he and recreation district General Manager Steve Randall brought the idea of a new fee structure for Placer residents to an unreceptive Placer 5th District Supervisor Bruce Kranz a year-and-a-half ago.

“We’re not asking [Truckee or Nevada County residents] for money because they go to Northstar or Kings Beach,” said Kranz in a phone interview. “Tourism goes across county lines.”

Kranz will soon probably have to face the issue again, as Owens and Randall plan to meet Friday to discuss a variety of issues including this one.

What would additional user fees look like?

At the board meeting, Randall spoke of potentially adopting separate user fees for residents and nonresidents.

In a subsequent phone interview, the general manager spoke of possibly seeking a portion of Placer County’s new construction fees. But that could jeopardize the revenues of other recreation providers.

“We would not be interested in seeing anything that would reduce our funding sources,” said General Manager Steve Rogers of the North Tahoe Public Utility District in a phone interview.

The lake-side utility manager said his agency has conducted license plate surveys in the past, gathering data that “unequivocally” prove visits to North Tahoe from Truckee-area residents.

“I think this is an inappropriate discussion,” Rogers said of Truckee’s possible nonresident’s fee.

Yet, one Placer County-based agency executive suggested possible middle ground.

Assistant General Manager Cindy Gustafson of the Tahoe City Public Utility District proposed in a phone interview that an Eastern Placer county master plan could address the use of earmarked parks money for local districts across the entire region.

“Maybe we should take a broader view,” Gustafson said. “Recreation is an important part of all of our lives. Instead of competing we should work collaboratively to understand our users and their needs.”