Community gathering discusses new fee proposed for Aspen’s parks and open spaces
City staff meets with community to discuss proposed fee structure and changes
A dozen people gathered Wednesday at City Hall to discuss the future of Aspen’s parks and open spaces in light of a rise in weddings, large scale events, catered picnics, and large fitness activities there. This crimps regular use by the public.
These increases of complex, high impact events tax the physical and staff resources of parks, and can affect the experience of other park rentals, as well as broader community members, city officials said.
Currently, park rental fees are $29 per hour for most uses. The proposal is to increase this fee to $32 per hour and charge a new commercial rental fee.
The city proposed a $25 per day additional commercial rental fee for any usage of a park that results in the exchange of money or financial donation for a group of 25 or more. This includes everything from yoga to outdoor markets.
Informal gatherings of fewer than 25 people would not need a permit.
“In terms of fees, I think it’s important to note that the proposed $25 a day is for commercial rentals that still meet the park rental policy guidelines,” said Emily Ford, of the city.
“I don’t think $25 seems like a hefty charge for an event at an Aspen park. For me, I don’t think it would be problematic for any client that I have ever worked with, especially in Aspen,” said Cheryl Norton, the owner and event stylist of Beautiful Crazy Event Stylists and Aspen Events LLC. “When you are talking about charges, there are crazy ones such as a fee to bring a dress to the top of the mountain. This is a minimal fee that goes back to the community.”
The city would not be limiting people in parks or permits per day.
“It’s a weekly cumulative hour maximum or target,” said Matt Kuhn, the city’s parks and open space director.
Guests were invited to engage with city members to understand the new permit recommendations and learn where they can give feedback in the city’s survey.
“We have a work session with City Council on Feb 27 to report on our outreach and our target is to trial this new policy in summer 2023,” added Kuhn. “This park rental policy is not for large-scale events or special events. This is for groups of 25 to 125 people, with a maximum of four hours, limited infrastructure (acceptable items could include yoga mats, pop up tents, etc) and can be booked 90 days in advance.”
“We had typically rented out the parks for our events in the past so we could secure placement and not worry about no vacancy,” said Jason Schnissel, the executive director of the Aspen Jewish Congregation. “We moved a lot of our events to the park during COVID, which would range from 20 to 50 people. I think it’s a great idea to permit larger groups. I’m certainly in favor of having the parks for the people.”
There were some questions and confusion on the new proposed changes.
“How are they going to enforce this policy? So many people gather for larger events and never get a permit. Are they hiring more staff?” asked Drew Barr anAspen resident, mom and frequent park user. “I’m not against a permit. I just want to know how they are going to monitor and keep the parks equal and balanced for all.”
“We increased our park ranger staff over the last couple years and so we have sufficient resources,” Kuhn said. “Our intention is not to fine people, but create policy that make park rentals simple and straightforward for most types of uses.”
For more information or to fill out the survey, visit aspencommunityvoice.com
According to city officials:
The proposed definition of park rental:
Any organized gathering of more than 25 people and less than 125 people that utilizes a park space for athletics, fitness, educational offering, picnics, parties, small gatherings, or other activities.
What is a special event?
Concerts, sporting events, parades, and outdoor art shows are all examples of special events. “Impacts to public property” include but are not limited to essential public services such as: emergency services, fire, police, transportation, parks, sidewalks or roads.
What are informal gatherings?
If someone would like to use the park for a small picnic or other informal gathering of less than 25 people, this is allowed without a permit and free of charge. Other park rental regulations or municipal code rules may still apply.
This does not apply to commercial rentals such as fitness classes or catered picnics.
Proposed definition of commercial rental:
Any rental of a park that results in the exchange of money or financial donation. Activities include but are not limited to: fitness classes, yoga, personal training, catered picnics, or outdoor markets. Commercial rental is allowed as long as it meets the park rental definition and policy and is subject to an additional (proposed) commercial fee of $25 a day.
Proposed duration limits:
Staff propose that park rental permits shall be limited to a maximum of four hours.
Proposed advance booking limit:
Staff proposes that park rental permits shall be issued no greater than 90 days in advance of the event.
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