Hitting The Beach? It May Cost You

Allan Appel PhotoThomas MacMillan PhotoFor the first time in recent memory, New Haveners driving into Lighthouse Park this summer may have to pay for the privilege. If Jeanette Morrison gets her way, the entrance fee will be less than it otherwise might have.

The mayor’s proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 calls for the introduction of a $20 seasonal parking fee for New Haven cars entering Lighthouse Point Park. Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts said the fee is needed to pay for staffing at the park.

In past years, Lighthouse Point Park parking passes have been free for New Haveners. The city tried to implement a fee last year; the Board of Aldermen blocked it.

This year, the board hasn’t yet moved against the proposed fee. But Morrison (pictured), a Dixwell alderwoman, proposes to reduce the charge, but not eliminate it.

She proposes setting the seasonal fee at $10 with a one-day parking pass available for $5. Cars belonging to seniors over the age of 62 would be free. For out-of-town cars, the fees would remain at $100 for the season or $20 per day.

Parking fees are charged from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Smuts said the money would help cover the cost of managing the park, including staffing the gate and paying parking flaggers on the busiest days.

Smuts said a daily fee was meant to be included in the budget also but was omitted due to a “scrivener’s error.” He said he couldn’t recall what the proposed daily fee was.

Smuts said Morrison’s proposal is agreeable to City Hall.

Morrison introduced her ordinance amendment at last Monday’s Board of Aldermen meeting. The Finance Committee will take up the proposal at a future meeting, probably after it finishes deliberating on the proposed budget, Morrison said.

The fee reduction would not have an impact on the budget’s revenue numbers because the amount projected to come in from the parking fees at the park was already fairly small, Smuts and Morrison said.

“I’m thinking about the single parent with children who needs to get their kids out and run off some energy,” Morrison said. That parent might not be able to afford the $20 fee.

“I can borrow five dollars,” Morrison said. “I can’t borrow twenty dollars.”

“I’m really focusing on the residents, because we’ve got to give them something,” she said. “I really want to see this happen for this year. I’ve got different constituents calling me and saying, ‘What’s going on with these fees?’

“I just want to give all residents the ability to get out and be by the beach and allow kids to run around. The big piece is with the seniors.”

Many senior citizens are on fixed incomes, she said. “This is the least we can do for them.”

Morris Cover Alderman Sal DeCola, whose ward includes Lighthouse Point Park, welcomed the free-for-seniors aspect of the plan. He said he thinks a $10 fee for other New Haveners for the year is reasonable.

“It’s a vehicle tax,” he said. The park is still “technically free.” That is, it’s free for people who walk, bike, or ride the bus, he said.

It costs more for the park to accommodate cars, DeCola said. “You have to have an area to park them and you have to watch them.” And there are “environmental issues that come with vehicles,” like oil leaks, he said.

Maybe the fees will encourage people to take the bus, DeCola said. He acknowledged that it might also encourage people to park outside the park and walk in, which has been a neighborhood nuisance in the past.

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posted by: anonymous on May 14, 2012  2:20pm

$10 is too low to maintain all that parking infrastructure. The fee should be set at market demand. The fee could be lower in the morning, and rise as the lots begin to fill up.

If you want to avoid the fee, it is easy to park elsewhere and walk, or to hop on the bus or bike to the park from anywhere in the city.  The city can ticket vehicles that park illegally and create some residential parking zones on the smaller side streets if this becomes an issue.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 14, 2012  2:23pm

Keep voting them in.

posted by: East Rocker on May 14, 2012  2:34pm

This is really too bad.  I understand the budget constraints we are facing, but one of the great things about the city’s AMAZING park system is that it is one of the last bastions of free recreation around.  Even in the worst economic times, a family living in the city can still enjoy some beauty and fresh air without concern to cost.  If the fees are not bringing in so much to begin with, perhaps there is some other source that can be tapped?  Or, as much as I hate to suggest it, perhaps some sponsorship opportunity?  (Picture a sign at the guard house: “Parking at Lighthouse Point is generously provided this season by ________.”)  Other suggestions?

posted by: Noteworthy on May 14, 2012  2:40pm

If Ms. Morrison wants to do something for the people she represents, then she should do away with the fee altogether. New Haven folks should get in for free. God knows we pay a fortune in property taxes, parking fees, fines and everything else. If somebody doesn’t have $5 to get in the park, she wants them to borrow it? You can provide a free park and then some by ending any more school construction projects. We don’t need it and then you can provide free park use.

posted by: newhavenerrr on May 14, 2012  2:41pm

How about keeping it free for homeowners since we did just see a major hike in our taxes?

posted by: Billy on May 14, 2012  3:08pm

How about writing in a sunset clause for the fee? Meaning that it’s reevaluated in a year or two. If the city budget is better, the park goes back to being free (or “free” due to our exorbitant NH property taxes).

Lighthouse is a gem, and needs to be available to all NH residents.  I think alderwoman Morrison’s idea of reducing the fee is reasonable.  Alderman DeCola is right that the fee is likely to cause significantly more street parking in the area.

I’d also like to remind my fellow NH residents that the parks budget has been cut in recent years, and that the wonderful ranger resources have been shrunk.  Maybe the excess fees (or some of them) from Lighthouse can be earmarked for ensuring the positions and programs of our rangers.  They provide an important link to the ecology of our city, and their programs have been woefully underfunded lately.

posted by: Ladybug on May 14, 2012  3:18pm

Good thing there are other beaches ....I know now where I WON’T be going!!

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on May 14, 2012  3:27pm

Walking fee: $0
Biking fee: $0
G2 Roundtrip Bus Fee: $2.60

While the costs of operating Lighthouse Park should be covered by the exorbinate taxes that New Haven residents pay, there are other options to driving that are much cheaper and you don’t have to pump them full of gas.

posted by: PH on May 14, 2012  4:55pm

If it costs $20 (or $10) for a teenager to drive in, it should cost the same for a person over the age of 62.  This whole country already gives old folks social security, free healthcare and exemptions to paying just about every fee.  If they have enough money to put gas in their car and drive to the park then they have enough money to pay for parking.  Stop coddling the old at the expense of the young.

posted by: Cove Republican on May 14, 2012  6:29pm

As a city resident, I am not thrilled about having to pay to go into Lighthouse Park. As a resident of Morris Cove, I echo Alderman DeCola’s concerns about people parking outside the park in order to avoid the parking fee. On busy days it gets very chaotic and adversely affects the quality of life for the residents that live near the park. Additionally on holidays like July 4th, the parking lot inside the park is full very early in the day, I might add with a lot of cars from not just out of town but also out of state. Would it be possible that on these days since we are also paying to park, to limit parking at Lighthouse to city residents only and maybe shuttle (for a fee) out of towners from other lots, such as Nathan Hale School or East Shore park?

posted by: MorrisCoveRes on May 14, 2012  6:35pm

I live and own a home in the cove and am directly affected by Lighthouse Park and what happens there. We already have an issue with parking especially on holidays but since they only happen a few times a year it’s a small inconvenience, but if they issue this parking fee to both city and non city residence where do you think they will park?. The city has already put a “Residential Parking Zone” in the immediate area around the park which forces the residents to pay for a permit to park near their homes (that they pay taxes on) so others don’t which if I’m not mistaken coasts $20 per permit. So that pushes the people just outside the bounds of the RPZ into my neighborhood. The point is we who live and pay taxes in the area end up having to pay more than anyone $20 Parks Permit $20 RPZ permit (per car plus visitor passes) and we receive less city services than any other area. Street Sweeping 2 times a year vs. 2 times a month , RP Zone only enforced during week not on weekend when needed maybe 1 cop in our area.Where is my Alder person?

posted by: Fairhavener on May 14, 2012  7:58pm

Ladybug, you must own your own private beach on the CT coastline somewhere, because as far as most eveand town with water front in CT already charge beach goers needing to park either through permits and pay on site parking.

If you do own your own beach please do invite me! I promise not to just park my car, use your beach, and leave. Freeloading is not allowed, this is a city with real budgetary concerns and everyone must pull their weight.

posted by: getyourfactstraight on May 14, 2012  9:50pm

You know PH…. you have alot of (you know what) saying that old folks are being given SS….news flash! these old folks paid into SS their entire life! It is not an entitlement…got it?
And as far as paying to go to the beach that I pay high taxes on my home to help support and maintain that beach should suffice. In fact, if you want to get down to nitty gritty…let residents that are paying taxes on their homes bring identification and their home tax bill to the parks department and be given a free pass. If you think because someone owns a home or is old and on SS they don’t deserve tp be considered for an exemption…. that is your problem. What next are taxpayers going to be asked to pay….to use the library? Really, this is so out of control. Once again this administration figured in probably an approximate revenue from this and added it to this budget before this was even passed. So if it fails to pass they will blame the aldermen. Same old same old. We the homeowners are being taxed right out of this city at this point.

posted by: Dean Moriarty on May 14, 2012  11:17pm

Wow. Maybe we could institute death squads for those over 60.  Think of the resources freed up. I’m over 60, on a disability pension (which I paid into for 34 years) and don’t receive Social Security.  Could PH tell me where to sign up for the “free healthcare and exemptions to paying just about every fee”?  I’ll be first in line.

As for the permit issue, the City’s budget is near meltdown and will only worsen in the next three years.  And I agree with Noteworthy about property taxes. We’ve owned our home here since 1989 and the rise in taxes is completely disproportionate to actual value. Yet, even on my limited income, I have no problem with this proposed fee. Look, it comes down to about .20/day for the season. My only reserve about it is whether or not it really helps the budget.

posted by: Wildwest on May 15, 2012  8:30am

MAYBE the city could generate revenue from ticketing litterers at Lighthouse Point? How about those open containers that end up all over the place as well. How about those kids illegally jumping off the fishing pier or the guys fishing with no fishing license that keep everything they catch? Maybe those jetskiiers that rush into shore when the Coast Guard comes anywhere near, how about we pick on the criminals in the park FIRST and then maybe think about a drive in fee for the tax paying residents. I used to sail from Lighthouse, the outlaw mentality around the boat launch ruins it. We force bars and roadwork crews to have a cop on site, why not the busiest park in the city?

posted by: PH on May 15, 2012  10:15am

I’m sorry Elaine, $10 is too much for you?  You own a house. You probably have $10 to spare. If everyone else in town has to pay to drive to the park, surely you too can cough up $10 along with the rest of us. We are all “taxpayers”—don’t act like you are special just because you own a home. If you want to draw a line between town residents and out-of-town (as has been the case up to now), then I have no problem.  If you draw the line between a person who pays taxes directly through the choice of home ownership versus a person who pays taxes through rent, I cannot support your position.  And I see no reason why those over 60 should be exempt from this fee or any other city fee. If you want to exempt those over 60, then also exempt those without jobs, or those with children, or the disabled, or any other people who are at least as (and probably more) deserving. So yes, you correctly identify my problem: I think it is absurd that I should subsidize the “right” of people over 60 to drive to the park, or to have renters pay the fee to subsidize homeowners.

Dean: go get your SSDI and get on Medicare. I am talking about a $10 fee. If you want an exemption because you are disabled, I have no problem with it.  I don’t want you dead, I just don’t want to pay your parking fees.

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on May 15, 2012  10:36am

If the people of New Haven settle for these new fees for Lighthouse Park, what will be next? They will charge us to go to the summit of East Rock. There will be fees to go to Edgewood Park. They will charge us to go to the Green.
Call your aldermen and tell them to vote no to fees for New Haven residents to enter and park at Lighthouse. Call the mayor’s office and complain. We pay enough taxes. If the city were properly managed we should be able to provide services to the residents that we have long been accustomed to. There is entirely too much waste in city government.
Watch out New Haven, next they will want to charge us for trash removal and snow plowing!
Really, how much could be saved by charging us to park at Lighthouse?
If the aldermen approve this proposal, we should call for a city-wide boycott of Lighthouse this summer and then vote for new aldermen and a new mayor next fall.

posted by: falva3349 on May 15, 2012  12:11pm

If a fee is approved for city residents I would hope that the BOA might consider making Active and Retired members of the Military and National Guard who live in the city exempt from any fees.

posted by: retiree 2011 on May 15, 2012  1:11pm

Interesting that the article mentions the fee is charged Memorial Day to Labor Day. Last fall, late in October, I went in to Lighthouse to see the hawks migrating and look at the butterfly garden. In October, there are no lifeguards, concession stand or showers, but I believe the restrooms are open. The booth at the entry was closed and there was no indication that there was a charge to go in. I parked and suddenly a Parks Dept. worker on a golf cart drove up behind me and started screaming that he was going to call the police and have me arrested because I did not pay $20 to park. I told him no problem I would just leave the park. I went home and called the Mayors Office about this screaming maniac. If there was indeed a charge, he could have just said “there’s a $20 charge to park here” not scream about having me arrested. Since the booth was closed up, how do I know he would even turn in the $20.?

I have not been to Lighthouse since, not even to see the Christmas display. This just turned me off, due to the abusive park worker.

posted by: QuestionGiven on May 15, 2012  1:12pm

@Thomas Alfred Paine
I would love to tell my Alderman “No” and don’t vote for this, but she is the one sponsoring the fee change, Jeannette Morrison. 
As she state, she can borrow five dollars to pay for the fee.  No one should have to borrow anything when we as homeowners pay exorbitant amount of taxes and we still have failing schools.  All of the Alderman and woman are not for the people of the Ward, but for the people of the unions.  Lets all stand up next year to vote the people in office that are doing “nothing”, out of office.

posted by: sunshine165 on May 15, 2012  3:50pm

I live in Morris Cove but not close enough to be affected by the parking mess on the surrounding streets.  I don’t mind the $20.00 annual fee but what I HAVE been saying for years is that the walkers should be paying too.  As mentioned in earlier comments, there are not only out-of-towners but out-of-state carloads that park on surrounding streets and walk in for FREE/FREE!  Why don’t the alderman pass a walkers entrance fee for the foot traffic?  $2.00 per adult, $1.00 per child (unless a NH Resident w/pass).  I also like the idea of a shuttle bus but they would have to pay the same fee to get on the bus as a walker.  Come on alderman…do your job!

posted by: Mike Fimiani on May 15, 2012  5:14pm

I agree with Cove Republican about the issue of parking at Lighthouse Park. I must add that it should be broken down for non city residents, city residents, and residents of Morris Cove who are inconvienanced by additional traffic in our neighborhood. I am sure Sal DeCola our Alderman can work out a successful comprmise that all can live with. I find Sal very capable, available and eager to help residents of our areas as well as our entire comunity to benifit us all.
it is disheartening sometimes to still still see the Alderman bashing Morris Cove Residents and all the other naysayers. Contact him. he will respond. Let"s all work together.you will be surprised what can get done.

posted by: getyourfactstraight on May 15, 2012  6:09pm

PH, you are hysterical….I am laughing all the way to the bank to withdraw my money to pay my mortgage,taxes,insurances and perhaps $10 to park at light house park/beach that I pay for through my taxes to maintain. Oh…. and lets stick to the real issue of your comments about seniors being old folks that are given SS(they are not given it they paid for it),free health care<????? and other exemptions. Shame shame PH.

posted by: Dean Moriarty on May 16, 2012  2:14am

PH, if you do a little clearer reading you’ll see I said nothing about wanting any exemption.  In fact I questioned the argument against the proposal.

And “We are all “taxpayers”—don’t act like you are special just because you own a home”  I certainly don’t feel special.  I’ve rented, and I’ve owned.  But when I rented I don’t recall ever writing a check for 3K in July and another for 3K in December. But you’re right, I’ve chosen to own, and that comes with it.  Proportionate to what you’re invested in. And again, please tell me where the line is for free healthcare.

To the main topic (the above aside) after reading responses from Cove residents I see a different picture.  I hadn’t considered this.  Yes, this would lead to much more residential parking problems that these folks have contended with for years.  It’s been an ongoing problem (reference past NHI articles) and I agree that this will make it much worse.  With that perspective, despite the relatively small fee, I don’t really think this is a good idea.