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11/15/2019 - updated 11/18/2019

Fees to increase for trolleys, small commercial vehicles visiting Fort Williams Park

The Town Council on Nov. 13, 2019 approved new fees for commercial trolleys, vans and minibuses to enter Fort Williams Park.

A seasonal pass for a trolley entering the park will be $5,000 for the 2020 season, up from $3,000 in 2019. In 2021 that fee will increase to $7,500; and $10,000 in 2022. Other smaller commercial vehicles, generally with 30 seats or less, will also see fees increase over the next three years, ending with the town's ultimate goal of $5 for each person who enters the park in a commercial vehicle by 2022.

The approved increases for commercial vans, limos and minibuses were not included in the Fort Williams Park Committee's recommendation for fee increases last month [news article], but were added after councilors met with committee members in a workshop Nov. 6.

Growing traffic from vans and minibuses – the latter added as a category of commercial vehicle to the fee schedule in 2018 – prompted the recommendation, said committee representative Jim Kerney. "I think we should move to have the season passes for those two carrier types be more in line with trolleys and with coach buses," he said.

The approved fees for trolleys are also different from those proposed in October: The seasonal fee per trolley is less because the company that sends trolleys to the park has three vehicles instead of two; and, although trolleys typically enter with a season pass, a single-visit charge of $75 for trolleys was established to be consistent with fees for other commerical vehicles.

At the same time fees were approved, councilors called for a policy to codify which types of small commercial vehicles traditionally are allowed to enter the park for free.

"The park does get frequent visits from our residential facilities ... our senior housing, our veterans housing," said Kerney. "They don't off-load passengers ... they are there for a quick swing through for their residents," he said. For that reason the committee is recommending such vehicles be issued free seasonal passes, but Kerney agreed the practice can get messy without a defining policy.

Voting against the fee increases was Councilor Christopher Straw, who likened season passes for commercial vehicles to "an all-you-can eat buffet."

"It encourages anyone with a season pass, where they don't have to pay on a per-trip basis, to make as many trips as they can justify financially even if the vehicles are three-quarters or five-sixths empty," Straw said. It also runs counter to one of the town's goals for a sustainable community.

Straw instead proposed charging commercial vehicles on a per-head or per-seat basis, an idea other councilors said they liked, but did not support. "In the interest of being a good neighbor and a good business partner, I think we should give (commercial-vehicle operators) some predictability," said Councilor Valerie Adams, who also she did like the simplicity and logic of Straw's proposal. Other councilors questioned the details and practicality of collecting fees under the proposal, but all agreed that commercial-vehicle fees beyond 2022 should be part of the upcoming update to the Fort Williams Park Master Plan.

Included in the approved fees are incremental increases to fees for motorcoaches. Single-visit fees for motorcoaches will rise to $135 next season, up from $100 in 2019; $170 in 2021; and $200 in 2022. Last year the council approved a $150 single-visit fee for the 2019 season, but later rolled it back to allow tour companies more time to plan for increases. Discounted per-visit fees are offered for motorcoaches visiting 75 times or more a season.

Approved commercial-vehicle fees for Fort Williams Park 2020-2022 (click image to download)