By Jim Newell
Getting into Green’s Park this summer is going to cost a bit more for everyone, about 20 times more than last year.
But the Lake Orion Village Council and the village’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee hope that the increased park pass fee – $20 per household this year – will help make the park safer, cleaner and more enjoyable for everyone.
Councilmember Jerry Narsh made the motion to charge $20 per year per household for a pass to Green’s Park, $2 per person per day for day passes and to staff the park with two lifeguards during the hours recommending by the parks committee.
Councilmember Sarah Luchsinger seconded the motion, which passed 5-0. Councilmembers Doug Hobbs and Ray Hammond did not attend the Feb. 22 meeting.
Narsh proposed raising the daily park pass fee – for those who do not purchase an annual, or season, pass – to $2 per day, doubling what the parks committee had recommended.
The parks committee recommended to the council that “no less than two” lifeguards staff the park from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday – Thursday and from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Friday – Sunday and holidays. The park is open from dawn to dusk and is the only village park where an entry fee is required.
Green’s Park opens Memorial Day weekend and closes in September, or later, depending on the weather, said village Manager Joe Young.
In 2020, people were asked to make a donation when they entered Green’s Park. In 2019, the village charged everyone $1 for a pass good for the entire season.
In fact, the annual fee structure to enter Green’s Park varied from year to year over the past five years, said Councilmember Teresa Rutt, the council’s representative on the advisory committee. Now, the committee wants “to keep a consistent fee for a couple of years and see how it goes.
The annual pass fee of $20 per household is not clearly defined, except that it covers those individuals who live together in a home. Neither the council or the parks committee defined the size of a family: meaning a household of one person would have to pay the same fee as a household of four to enter Green’s Park.
The $20 per household park pass is the same cost for village, Orion Township and non-residents. In the past, the village has charged a higher fee for Orion Township residents and non-Orion residents.
Rutt said there was “a massive increase” in parks usage in 2020, likely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to “challenges” for the village, including an increase in trash, boats getting too close to the swimming area, people running on potentially slippery the docks.
There’s also been an increase in people bringing alcohol and dogs into the park – both of which are prohibited.
Rutt and fellow Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee member Cristy Garbacik agreed that having lifeguards at the park during the hours it’s most used would help reduce, or eliminate, some of the problems.
It is a “confidence booster” for her as a parent to know that there are lifeguards at the park “to make it safer and more enjoyable for everyone,” Rutt said.
“This year we did not have lifeguards as we normally do,” Garbacik said, adding that by not having lifeguards “the safety of swimmers was really put on the back burner.”
It would cost around $20,000 to fund lifeguards for the 2021 season.
“It’s a reality that lifeguards cost money,” Rutt said.
“Please keep up the good work,” said village council President Ken Van Portfliet. “You folks really do a lot with little.”
The village will also charge $2 per person or $5 for a family of five for anyone who enters Green’s Park to watch the annual fireworks show. Admission fees to the park during the fireworks has brought in up to $5,000 in some years, Rutt said.
Future parks discussions will also include parks management, Rutt said.
The Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and the village have, in previous years, offered swim lessons at Green’s Park.
However, while the committee would like to offer swim lessons, those plans “are up in the air” because of the pandemic and whether swim lessons can be offered during the pandemic, Rutt said.
If swim lessons are provided, the proposed cost is $55 for village residents, $75 for non-residents.