Parks commission to consider $1 parking fee for Upper Bidwell

"Any fee from parking would most definitely be put back to infrastructure maintenance, storm drainage or road maintenance itself," said Public Works Director Erik Gustafson.

Posted: Jan 29, 2018 5:36 PM
Updated: Jan 30, 2018 9:52 AM

"Bidwell Park is the heart of Chico - it's my happy place, I love it, used to do all the bike trails with my kids, hike for hours," said Libby Laird, a long-time resident.

And she has a point - there's something special about Bidwell Park.

"It's always been free access up there - we want to promote that - but there are significant impacts to the road up there, and right now it's coming out of general fund, and general fund dollars are extremely scarce," said Public Works Director Erik Gustafson.

So, the Bidwell Parks & Playground Commission is looking into a dollar-a day fee for vehicles to drive in above Wildwood Park.

"Any fee from parking would most definitely be put back to infrastructure maintenance, storm drainage or road maintenance itself," said Gustafson.

In 2017, more than 413,000 vehicles drove into Upper Park - not only is that a lot of wear-and-tear, it's a lot of potential revenue.

But even with good intentions and as low a rate as $50 for an annual pass, some locals are still concerned.

"There are a lot of people, maybe not from the area, who say 'a dollar's nothing', but if it starts there, where else is it going to go?" said Laird.

"As far as Bidwell Park I wouldn't add more parking, just keep it the way it is. Sometimes we change things just for the sake of change but that doesn't make it any better," said resident Tom Mattson.

The plan is to go with an unmanned kiosk or use a payment envelope to save salary dollars.

But it could still be a 10,000 installation fee or other enforcement costs.

Nothing will happen until the commission sends out a survey to gauge public opinion; based on that, they'll send a recommendation to city council.

"It would be inconvenient, but if it would go toward developing better roads, a single dollar isn't a big deal,' said resident Leibor Mies. "As long as it's going back into the parks and not into anybody's pocket, in the end it's probably a good thing."

The Bidwell Parks and Playground Commission will discuss the matter at a meeting Monday at 6:30 p.m.

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