Some increases will take effect soon, but the popular parks will also offer family discounts.
Snow tubing at Elm Creek Park Reserve in northern Hennepin County will cost $15 for two hours beginning this winter, a 25-percent increase from the previous rate of $12.
And those who want to park their snowmobile trailers in Three Rivers parks no longer will get a free ride.
Commissioners approved those and other fee increases unanimously last week in an attempt to have lessons, activities and other special uses come closer to paying their own way. No members from the public spoke against the changes at the commissioners’ monthly meeting.
Not affected are the free services of the park system, which include no admission or parking fees except for trailers, and no charges for hiking, biking, sledding, snowshoeing, and access to interpretive trails, play areas and nature centers.
The district runs about two dozen parks, park reserves and special recreation areas on nearly 27,000 acres, mostly in suburban Hennepin County.
Associate Superintendent Tom McDowell said the upcoming changes include the following:
• Snow-tubing increases, which include renting tubes and using groomed hills and uphill transportation at Elm Creek Park Reserve.
• A new snowmobile trailer parking fee of $5 per day or $35 per season.
• Higher rates for individual and group lessons that could mean up to a 25-percent increase for those trying archery, kayaking, canoeing, cross-country skiing and stand-up paddleboarding. They will be phased in during 2014.
• Two types of cross-country ski passes might be sold for the 2014-15 season that would charge more for skiing the district’s trails that use manufactured snow than for its natural-snow-only trails.
McDowell said the changes were prompted by the need to update and adjust some rates.
“We want to be sure they’re fair and equitable and that we’re consistent and staying in the ballpark, not running ahead or falling behind other [private] providers of similar services,” he said.
In other cases, McDowell said, the Park District needed to correct inconsistencies.
“We charge for people to park boat trailers and horse trailers in our parking lots, but currently we’re not charging for the parking of snowmobile trailers,” he said.
That will change this winter, he said, and snowmobilers will need to begin paying the same as others who park trailers: $5 a day or $35 for the season.
Longer snowmobile trails that run for many miles outside the parks cross through portions of Elm Creek, Baker and Crow-Hassan Park Reserves.
McDowell said that camping rates will remain unchanged.
Boosting class fees
In the coming months, Three Rivers will determine some of the new rates for lessons, McDowell said, and will be studying whether to increase fees for some of its larger buildings, which are rented for weddings, banquets and other special events.
McDowell said the higher fees are not intended as significant revenue boosts. Rates for lessons traditionally have been set to recover about 75 percent of the costs of instruction, he said, but park commissioners want them to pay closer to 100 percent of the costs.
Golf and downhill-ski lessons have been required to achieve that 100-percent payoff goal for many years, he said, and sometimes have made money for the district.
Although the prices for various activities will increase, McDowell said the park system will continue its scholarship programs and will consider more family and group discounts to be sure that higher rates don’t shut out some people who want to enjoy what the parks have to offer.
The 25-percent increase in snow tubing, for instance, will be accompanied by a 2-for-1 discount on certain weeknights, McDowell said.
“We want to make sure we’re maintaining easy access for all facets of our constituency,” he said.
Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388