2007-07-27 / Community

Gateway Seeks To Increase Riis Parking Fees

Two Public Meetings At Park Scheduled For August
By Miriam Rosenberg

Within a couple of years, it may cost more to use the parking lot at Riis Park. Within a couple of years, it may cost more to use the parking lot at Riis Park. Suppose they held a public meeting to discuss an increase in parking fees for Jacob Riis Park and no one showed up? That is exactly what happened last week when the National Park Service held the first of three meetings to get public opinion on proposed increases of parking fees at the facility, which is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

Except for parks personnel and this reporter, the meeting room at the Riis Park Bathhouse was empty for the July 20 meeting.

Despite the lack of public response Rita Mullally, the district ranger for the park, explained the possible fee change for The Wave.

"The proposal on the table is to increase daily rates from $5 to $10," said Mullally, who added that a season pass would cost $50. No mention has been made about a rise in fees to park oversized vehicles.

To help determine the proposed increases, the park service used a comparability study of parking fees at Jones Beach State Park, Long Beach in Nassau County, and another park in the Gateway National Recreation Area - Sandy Hook in New Jersey.

Cars pour into the Riis Park parking lot on a hot summer Sunday. Cars pour into the Riis Park parking lot on a hot summer Sunday. "There's a process in place that allows for open dialogue," Mullally said.

To do that, the National Park Service has put out notices to get the public involved through open meetings such as the one last week, as well as letting area elected officials know about the plan.

"The local superintendent will be sitting down with {Representative] Anthony Weiner," continued Mullally.

Any change in fees would not take place until the 2009 summer season.

"They requested an increase in 2005 and they were denied," said Mullally. "This would be the first increase since 2004."

Parks employee Kim Tripp told The Wave that nothing is set in stone.

"All [public] input goes into the decision process," said Tripp. "We don't have a done deal. The proposal is part of the process to determine the fee, if there is going to be an increase."

The money from the fees is used for the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act. Eighty percent of the monies collected, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, are used for maintenance of the park and to enhance visitor experience.

The funds are also used to pay the eight parking lot attendants who work the summer months.

"The other 20 percent is used for other parks in the system who don't collect fees," said Mullally.

In 2001, the daily fee for parking was $4. In 2004, daily parking increased to $5 and a season pass became $40. The charge for oversized vehicles, more than 25 feet, is currently $25.

There will be two more public meetings - on Saturday, August 11 and Sunday, August 19 at 1 p.m. - to discuss the possible hike in parking fees. Both meetings will take place at the Bathhouse at Riis Park.

Those who cannot attend a meeting and want to comment on the issue can write to Gateway National Recreation Area, Fort Tilden, New York 11695, Attention: Rita Mullally.

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