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Almanor Recreation & Park District Seeks Solution to Field Maintenance Funding

Traditionally, recreation departments charge a field user fee to provide revenue for ever rising field maintenance costs, especially those with no property tax funding. Should the Almanor Recreation & Park District (ARPD) charge fees to use the Truman-Collins Sport Complex field?

This would include programs such as Little League and CHS Girls Softball. This question has raised considerable discussion on all sides.

  The thinking goes something like this:  The field was built around 2008 on land donated by the Collins Pine Company, with one-time state grant funding and the generous efforts of community members who donated materials and services. The community, along with ARPD, invested in its creation for the use of our youth. The community came together and met a community need. Therefore, it is argued that ARPD should be willing to continue funding ongoing maintenance without cost to its users. Let’s examine the issue.

In those early years, maintenance and upkeep was done by community members and parents whose children played Little League and Girls Softball. Over time this practice gradually went away, and the ongoing maintenance fell to the unpaid volunteer work of one person.

However, this free maintenance volunteer is leaving at the end of this season. If no other volunteer steps forward for this extensive work commitment, then ARPD must consider paying for it.

All other maintenance costs — water, mower repair, gas, fertilizer, sprinklers, trash, portable toilets, repairs to the facility and grounds — have been paid by ARPD. Please note that ARPD has never had property tax funding. All funding comes solely from fundraising through four community wide recreation events, all done by board members with volunteers and merchant support. Last year’s fundraising events saw a hit to net revenue, as the 4th of July Fun Run saw a decrease in participants, in part due to a necessary course change due to the Mill Bridge Fire.

So, what is our status today? Little League has paid a modest fee over the past few years. Historically, the high school used the field without charge through a mutual exchange of facilities. This exchange ended two years ago. This year we approached the high school with a suggested usage fee, the reasoning being that the school district is responsible for providing athletic facilities and maintenance for its athletes.

ARPD has worked hard over the last few years to develop a cash reserve. Given rising costs, the need for a new roof, and decreases in revenue caused by unavoidable occurrences, this reserve can drop quickly.

This does not even account for event participation drops that may occur from the current COVID-19 epidemic. Our current budget deficit of $6,700 could easily expand. Beginning next year we must figure out how to pay for a maintenance person, estimated to be in the range of $5,000 to 8,000 a year. These shortfalls must come from our cash reserves yearly to pay our bills.

Our youth recreation is vitally important, and ARPD wants to be supportive of all our recreation programs. We are looking for a community solution. We want to stimulate a discussion with our community, not a dispute — every volunteer on this board serves with the desire to support Chester youth.

From our perspective, we have two choices: one, we need to charge users of the TCSC fields and mutually determine a way to phase those fees in or two, we absorb the costs and deplete our cash reserve over time.

Given these costs, and without an increase in revenue, we estimate we would have about 3 to 5 years before depleting our cash reserve. At that point, ARPD would no longer be able to maintain the fields in good working condition, if at all. ARPD would then be in jeopardy and perhaps be forced to close.

What does the community want? We are again at a point where we started 10 years ago — we have a community problem and need a community answer. We welcome your ideas. Please provide your comments to [email protected].

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