City of Aspen mulls new policy for park use |

City of Aspen mulls new policy for park use

Wagner Park is one of several city properties that are in demand for use from nonprofit, for-profit and private organizations. The city is looking at ways to refine its permitting system for special events at its parks.
Rick Carroll/The Aspen Times |

Pay to PLay

Park-use fees Aspen can vary, depending on the venue and the size of the function. Here’s a breakdown of the daily rates.

50 people or fewer, nonprofit — $50

50 people or fewer, commercial or private — $175

50 to 100 people, nonprofit — $200

50 to 100 people, commercial or private —$400

101 to 200 people, nonprofit — $300

101 to 200 people, commercial or profit — $600

201 to 500 people, nonprofit — $500

201 to 500 people, commercial or private — $3,500

More than 500 people, nonprofit — $1,500

More than 500 people, commercial or nonprofit — $5,000

John Denver Sanctuary — Flat fee of $2,000 for maximum of 150 people

Exclusive use of a park — $7,500 *

*Does not include Paepcke, Rio Grande or Wagner parks

Source: Aspen Parks and Recreation

The rising demand for use of city parks has Aspen officials mulling new approaches for the future.

“We could host an event every day in the summer,” Jeff Woods, manager of Parks and Recreation, recently said. “We’re working on a new policy to take up to City Council to come up with a game plan.”

Woods said he expects to introduce the policy to the council at a work session in August or September.

On July 18, The Aspen Times reported about a dust-up between Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and Mayor Steve Skadron over exclusive use of Aspen Golf Club for a fundraiser.

DiSalvo asked the city to waive a $10,000 fee for the nonprofit Aspen Hope Center, a suicide prevention and awareness organization, for a fundraiser from 8 a.m. to noon on July 18.

Skadron, who supported a city staff decision to charge the $10,000 nonprofit fee for exclusive use of the course, said it wouldn’t be fair to waive the fee when the city charges other nonprofits for use of city properties. The city also said the fundraiser was being held during one of Aspen Golf Club’s most lucrative times of the year.

At the same time, such for-profit groups as Food & Wine Magazine, which co-hosts its annual festival in June with the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, hasn’t had to pay for use of Wagner Park.

That’s because it was grandfathered into a policy the city created in the early 1990s requiring for-profits to pay for use of city parks. Prior to the policy’s implementation, for-profits weren’t charged a fee, including Food & Wine. It does, however, pay the expenses associated with resodding the field, which ranges from $30,000 to $40,000, said Tom Rubel, director of Parks, Open Space and Trails.

The city also waived an $80,000 fee required of Aspen Skiing Co. to use Wagner Park for 11 days during the World Cup Finals in March. Like Food & Wine, Skico will have to pay for the resodding of Wagner Park, Woods said.

And, the nonprofit Rotary Club saw its $3,000 fee waived for use of Rio Grande Park for the Ducky Derby, which is scheduled Aug. 13. Rotary would have been required to pay $1,500 for the Aug. 12 set-up day and another $1,500 for event day.

The city also is partnering with the Rotary Club of Aspen on the Ducky Derby.

“Anybody can go out there and the whole community goes there,” Wood said.

The city does not allow exclusive use of Wagner, Rio Grande and Paepcke parks. Woods, however, said he doesn’t view Food & Wine as having exclusive use, while Wagner Park during the World Cup Finals will be open and free to the pubic.

“(Food & Wine) is private, but we have over 700 locals that get access to it by volunteering,” Woods said. “It’s a quasi-public event.”

He added that “my job as steward of the resources is to try to make sure that the community is getting a benefit out of it. We’re getting tax dollars, it’s filling the restaurants and at the same time, we think (Food & Wine) is a great event.”

Still, Woods said, “That doesn’t mean we won’t look at this in the future” when it comes to the agreement with Food & Wine.

Woods said a new permitting system needs to be installed.

“We’re looking for a strong, more refined kind of approach to this in our written policy,” he said.

Oftentimes, like in the case of DiSalvo asking Skadron for a fee waiver, event organizers displeased with a staff decision over a park fee will go to members of City Council.

“We need to come up with a cohesive permitting system that has support from council, so that every time (event organizers) get a ‘no’ answer, they don’t run to City Council.”


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