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Parking, Membership Fee Final Decision Postponed
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Anticipating some opposition from residents and offering diverse personal opinions, Riverbank City Council members have postponed adoption both of a summer weekend parking fee at Jacob Myers Park and a membership fee at the new Teen Center for further discussion on March 28.

But they did succeed recently in adopting new fees for classes and programs of the Parks and Recreation Department, including a hike from $25 to $50 for the Golden Agers' weekly dance at the Community Center. Department Director Sue Fitzpatrick said they were content with the raise.

The proposed parking fee for Jacob Myers Park is $5 per vehicle per visit or a $35 residents' season pass. But the fee is only intended for summer weekends when the park is crowded. City officials have also suggested charging an annual membership fee of $25 per person for use of the Teen Center.

"Residents protested at the previous meeting," Councilmember Jesse James White said of the parking fee.

"The taxpayers built that park," said resident Charles Neal at the podium. "Nothing you have is free except the Easter Egg Hunt. I oppose the $5 parking fee and the $25 membership fee."

"I hate fees and taxes," added Vice Mayor Richard O'Brien. "I want to hear from the teens."

Fitzpatrick again explained the problems at Jacob Myers Park, which becomes overcrowded on summer weekends and where her department needs more funds to provide security, especially against bringing in alcohol and to ensure emergency vehicles can get through in addition to routine maintenance like gathering trash and cleaning bathrooms.

"McHenry Park (a few miles further west on the Stanislaus River) closes weekends in summer by 9:30 a.m. or 10 a.m. and sends the overflow to us," she said. "We're at capacity too by 11 a.m. or 11:30 a.m.

"We're overloading the park hosts, battling alcohol, fearing emergencies. Other parks charge $8 to $10 admission. We need somebody with more authority (a ranger or security guard) and the ability to close the park once it reaches capacity. Should the residents pay? The park committee says yes."

There are about 130 parking spaces at the moment and the department can add, at most, another 30 spaces. When they are full, the park should be declared at capacity and closed to further visitors, she said.

She and other officials were continuing talks with San Joaquin County officials and property owners along Santa Fe Road. They aim to post the road against people parking along the shoulder and crossing the busy highway on foot to add more crowds to the park.

Mayor Virginia Madueno said the situation at the park in summer has become a "health and safety issue." Councilmember Dottie Nygard also said they need to address the safety question.

O'Brien said the city owns the park and he had no problem with charging non-residents but he didn't favor taxing residents.

Police Chief Bill Pooley reminded the council that in previous years he had reserve officers to keep an eye on the park but no longer has those deputies available.

Turning to the membership fee for the Teen Center, Madueno accepted the $25 membership fee was to give users a sense of belonging to the Center. She thought a registration card and a code of conduct would be good ideas also.

Nygard queried whether some families could afford the membership fee, especially if there were several teens in the family. Fitzpatrick replied her department has a scholarship fund to help and "would always find a way" to let a child use the center as it does with swim lessons and other recreation programs.