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Ski team will feel pinch of new park fee

NEW LONDON -- Private organizations that use New London's city parks to make money will have to pay a new fee in 2010.

A $25 fee will be charged for each day after 30 days of permitted use under the ordinance.

The provision will primarily affect the Little Crow Ski Team, which uses Neer Park for its practices and performances. The ski team charges people to watch the Friday night shows.

Last year the ski team had a 57-day permit to use the park. If that's obtained again this year, the team would be charged for 27 days for a total fee of $675.

The city has invested thousands of dollars in grant money to restore the eroded shoreline of the park, which some attribute to the waves created by the high-powered boats the team uses and by skiers coming on and off the shore.

During a public hearing on the park ordinance, members of the ski team questioned the arbitrary amount the team would be assessed and preferred instead to pay for repairs for specific damages.

The council said determining damages would be too subjective, said City Clerk Trudie Guptill. "We just tried to make it fair to them," she said.

The ordinance was approved Wednesday by the New London City Council.

Mark Johnson, president of the nonprofit ski team, said in a later interview that the organization does not object to financially contributing to the lakeshore project.

"If indeed we're doing damage to the restoration project, we're OK with paying our share of that," he said, but added there may be a "more equitable" way of assessing charges.

He said he feels bad that other entities, like the farmer's market, will also be affected by the city's new ordinance.

The farmer's market, which had a 33-day permit to use Holm Park last year, would pay $75 in 2010 for the same number of days.

Johnson said it seems "ironic" the city will charge a user fee to an organization that has worked hard to improve Neer Park. "We actually resurrected the park from being a garbage dump," he said.

Johnson said he wonders if the "many charitable things the club has done" for the community wouldn't be a "fair trade" for use of the park.

At this point, Johnson said the team intends to request another 57-day permit in 2010. Those days of practice are necessary, he said, if the team is to continue to be competitive in regional and national ski competitions.

Carolyn Lange

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

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