With the change of seasons comes the need to enforce weekend parking restrictions at Jacob Myers Park. This year, they begin on Saturday, April 1.
In action at a recent meeting, the Riverbank City Council authorized several changes in the Parks Management Plan, especially concerning fees and uses in Jacob Myers Park.
The council voted to raise the parking fee to $7 (up from last year’s $5 fee) and decided to charge the fees on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays for the months of April through September. In the past, the season stretched from Memorial Day, in May, through Labor Day, in September.
In her report to the council, Parks and Recreation Director Sue Fitzpatrick said the city staff and the community continue to work on improving and expanding Jacob Myers Park.
“The success of this park stems from a variety of efforts such as the volunteer park hosts who are at the park on a year-round basis providing assistance, the additional park aides who assist with park maintenance, the Friends of Jacob Myers Park group who provide a variety of support to the maintenance and improvement of the park, and the number of grants obtained by City staff for special park projects or park amenities,” noted Fitzpatrick.
The emphasis on improving the park has been successful, she added.
“Overall, the City has succeeded in transforming and maintaining Jacob Myers Park as a family oriented, safe, and beautiful park,” she told the council.
Fitzpatrick added that the number of people using the park on weekends and holidays has been increasing each summer over the past three years.
“There were over 21,000 people who visited Jacob Myers Park this past summer. As a result, the increase in use of the park is causing challenges that need to be addressed,” she reported.
And, she told the council, last year’s busy season began in April, catching staff off guard. There was more consumption of alcohol within the park, she said, and it was often full to capacity, with residents near the park entrance charging for parking and creating safety hazards.
She also asked for an increase in temporary staff and supplies to handle the increase in garbage and litter removal necessary, along with the addition of portable restrooms for the season, which will also add to the operating expenses of the park.
She said the city is working on expanding parking back in the west end of the park, with the possible addition of a shuttle to bring patrons to the front of the park, which houses the traditional amenities of the play area, river access and places to sit and eat.
“The financial impact of increasing the parking fee to $7 will be a positive effort to allow for the continued high quality of park maintenance, repairs, safe tree cuts and overall park oversight,” Fitzpatrick said.
She noted that a scholarship fund is maintained for Riverbank residents who meet the criteria, and a season pass will be available for a flat fee as well. Those interested in the scholarship fund or a season pass can call the Parks and Recreation Department at 209-863-7140.
As for photographers, she reported, more than 20 local “are now using the park as their studio” and some are advertising on Facebook.
“Some are scheduling photo shoots and bringing in props. Couches and other large props have been left for staff to haul away and damage has been done to our fencing at the Bicentennial Grove and our new Wedding Gazebo,” Fitzpatrick noted. “Some of the more aggressive photographers do not observe parking regulations or park hours.”
She recommended the city issue an annual permit to professional photographers for a fee, and that a Riverbank Business License also be required. She said rules and regulations will be reviewed, to help prevent props or further damage to park amenities. Fitzpatrick noted that one photographer had climbed on top of the Wedding Gazebo and had to be prodded by a Park Host to stop.
Also, she asked that a $100 reservation fee be required for the Bicentennial Grove area or the Wedding Gazebo. All other areas of the park would be approved to be used as desired.
On a 5-0 vote, the council adopted the new fees plus a refundable $100 deposit fee, all to go into effect on Saturday.
Fitzpatrick said that reservation forms required and rules and regulations for professional photographers would be available in the Recreation Department office beginning this week.
“The park crew at times is picking up litter left along the beach area and throughout the park until 10 p.m. at night, then needing to return in the morning to be sure all is ready for the new groups coming in,” Fitzpatrick added of the busiest season for the park. “Tree maintenance is very expensive and safe tree cuts need to be done twice per year or more. The restrooms need constant attention to keep them usable. If playground equipment breaks, we need to be sure to have the funds to replace it right away instead of having an area boarded up during the busy season.”
The park covers 55 acres and requires a separate crew along with the volunteer park hosts to keep it nice for the public, said Fitzpatrick
The City contracts with Ontel Security to assist with enforcing ordinances such as the ‘No Alcohol’ at the park, she added.
News reporter Virginia Still contributed to this report.