Fee increase for group events likely to be passed on to park users

PORTLAND, Ore. - Brace yourself for the higher cost of having fun in Portland's parks. The city is about to start charging more for groups to hold events in the parks and the costs will likely get passed on to you.

Essentially, it's a mandate from Portland's City Council for park users to pick up more of the tab for maintaining parks.

North Portland's Cathedral Park has hosted a free jazz festival for more than three decades.

But higher user fees this summer means the festival has to come up with an extra $7,000 for the three-day event.

Other sponsored events, like Cinco de Mayo at Waterfront Park, which also charge a fee to get in, will pay even higher rates for using Portland's parks.

And watch out if your child plays an organized sport on parks bureau property. Fees will probably increase the most for users of the parks for that purpose. According to the bureau, that's because sports park fees have only covered about 10 percent of field maintenance. Now that jumps to about 24 percent.

"Basically it's a combination of an effort to meet the City Council's guidelines for cost recovery," said Shawn Rogers with the Portland Parks Bureau. "It's a 2004 plan that was enacted and that we've been slowly but surely gearing up to."

But some fear smaller events simply won't survive and a few events in parks have been canceled or scaled back. That worries those who fear that might cost Portland part of what makes it special.

"I feel like culture and art and music and dance should be something that's open to everybody, and that's why we have public parks," said jazz festival fan Theresa Bromm-Boesen.

Even though it's had some event cancellations because of the new fees, the parks bureau says it has come out even because there have been new groups willing to pay the higher costs of using parks. Additionally, some sports groups are now sharing fields to control their costs.