By MADISON BROWN
Fredericksburg’s City Council approved a resolution to start a pilot program charging non-residents of Fredericksburg and Stafford County a fee to enter Old Mill Park.
Beginning July 22, non-residents will pay $10 for vehicle parking and $5 for walk-in entry to the park seven days a week. From September 5 to October 30, the charge will only be applied on weekends.
The measure was proposed after Stafford County’s Board of Supervisors announced a $25 non-resident fee for use of the Historic Port of Falmouth Park, just across the river from Old Mill. In a memorandum to the city manager, Director Todd Brown of Fredericksburg’s Parks, Recreation and Events department expressed concern that Old Mill Park “experiences overcrowding and parking challenges,” which would “become even more acute in light of the new parking fee for the Historic Port of Falmouth,” absent a corresponding fee for Old Mill Park.
Vice-Mayor Charlie Frye opposed the initiative in part for its exclusion of Spotsylvania County residents.
“So if you’re in Stafford, you don’t have to pay. I get the mutual agreement,” he said ahead of the City Council’s vote. “But I see more folks in Spotsylvania County representing Fredericksburg than I see in Stafford County.”
How will the city know who to charge?
Brown said the parks will primarily accept driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations as identification. Walk-in visitors can present student IDs and other forms of identification if their addresses are listed on the document.
Residents who do not have identification that includes an address listing will also have to pay the fee. This could particularly affect children and teenagers attempting to walk into the park.
The park’s restrooms will now be inaccessible to runners on Heritage Trail unless they carry identification with them.
Who is affected by this policy?
Spotsylvania residents will not enjoy the exception that Stafford County residents get. This is because of an agreement that dissolved the joint Fredericksburg Stafford Park Authority in 2007 on the stipulation Stafford County residents are never charged a different fee than Fredericksburg residents for access to Old Mill Park.
Brown says that FPRE has not yet decided whether addresses with zip codes 22407 and 22408 will be expected to pay the fee. Most people in these zip codes are Spotsylvania residents with Fredericksburg addresses, but some addresses along River Road and Summerfield fall within city limits.
The new policy is intended to reduce overcrowding and open up parking spots in and around Old Mill Park. The City also estimates that it will bring in at least $42,100 in revenue over a total expense of $31,255.
Councilwoman Kerry P. Devine believes the generated revenue will improve park maintenance.
“What we’re talking about is not even limiting access, but asking people who do not live here to pay some of the costs for the use of the park,” she argued.
However, the City does not have data on Old Mill Park’s attendance or on what portion of park users are Fredericksburg and Stafford residents. The revenue estimates are based on hypothetical attendance rates. The estimates also do not account for days when the park is rented out during which, according to Brown, fees will not be collected.