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New London considers ordinance to charge for extended park usage

Claudia Thompson, a New London-Spicer senior, and other volunteers help install coco logs along the shore of Neer Park in New London in this Aug. 5 file photo. Coco logs and native vegetation were put in place as part of a $25,000 erosion control project. Protection of the shoreline is one factor in the city's consideration of charging a fee for extended use of park facilities. Revenue generated from user fees would help fund continued shoreline restoration projects. Tribune file photo by Carolyn Lange

NEW LONDON -- Private organizations that use New London's public parks to make a profit may be charged a fee in the future to use those facilities.

A public hearing has been set for Dec. 2 to amend the city's park ordinance.

Under the proposal, the $25 a day fee would be charged for every permitted day after 30 days.

An organization that requests a permit to use the park for one to 30 days would not be charged a fee, according to City Clerk Trudie Guptill.

An entity that obtains a permit to use the park 40 days, for example, would be charged a $250 fee for the extra 10 days.

The proposed amendment could affect the Little Crow Ski Team, which had a 57-day permit this year. With the user fee, the team would pay $675 for the 27 days.

The team uses Neer Park on the Crow River for their weekday practices and weekend shows. They charge a fee for people to watch their shows.

A group of families that had a 34-day permit to use Holm Park for a farmer's market would also be affected if the proposed amendment is approved.

Guptill said the City Council supports the activities and does not want to "discourage" use of the parks. "But if they're using it for profit, there should be a fee."

The city and the ski team have had numerous conversations over the years concerning the use of the park, including shoreline erosion at the park that the city has attributed to the high-speed boats the team uses.

With the help of state and local grants, the city initiated a major erosion control project around the park this summer.

Guptill said revenue generated from the user fees would continue to fund those shoreline restoration projects. The money would be "put back into the park," she said.

The City Council is also discussing whether or not to charge the ski team for garbage and utility services at the park. Currently, the city picks up that tab.

The ski team has invested thousands of dollars to install bleachers and bathrooms at Neer Park, which had minimal use prior to the ski team making the park its home in 1985.

In other action:

- The council reviewed a joint powers agreement with the state concerning the replacement of the Mill Pond Dam. The city is seeking additional legal counsel on the matter.

- The council was informed the recent refinancing of bonds resulted in a total net savings of a $26,000, which was better than expected.

- The council discussed a recent meeting with New London Township about a cooperative project to install civil defense sirens. It was agreed that the two entities would continue to discuss potential plans.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750