KITTERY, Maine — Town councilors Monday night will review a proposal from the Parks Commission to raise Fort Foster entrance fees. If approved, a single vehicle would go from $10 to $20.
The proposed fee increases are said to directly support long-term objectives and projects identified by the Parks Commission as essential for the future health and upkeep of Fort Foster.
Town Manager Kendra Amaral is in agreement with the increases, which would likely result in an estimated $60,000 in revenue the first year of implementation. Of the $60,000, she said, $40,000 is expected to be allocated to the Capital Improvement Program's Parks Reserve to advance the tower bathroom roof repair, landscape plan and to build the reserve for future projects.
The additional $20,000 would go to the Department of Public Works and police for maintenance and increased enforcement at Fort Foster. The details of the enforcement plan are still be worked out with the police department, Amaral said.
In a memo to the Town Council, the Parks Commission stated it had researched current usage and associated fees at Fort Foster, fees at other local parks and reviewed the results of a public survey they distributed. Amaral said it was discovered Fort Foster "has been running lower" fee-wise, than other area public parks with beaches.
When the Fort Foster and Seapoint Beach revenue and expenses came in at about even, it was decided fees needed to go up in order to invest in the capital and upkeep of the parks, she said.
Parks Commission Co-Chair Rich DeMarco said it's a "forward thinking" approach to managing what has grown to be a very popular location on the Seacoast. From 2008 to 2017, adult entrance numbers increased from 16,000 per season to over 30,000.
"The fees haven't changed in decades," he said.
DeMarco noted other town parks charge for parking, but at Fort Foster, it's free. The increase recommendations were born largely out of the public survey conducted earlier this year regarding park goers experiences, he said, and then solidified after a workshop with the Town Council in November.
If approved by the Town Council, a non-resident season pass would increase from $60 to $75, a single day pass for a vehicle from $10 to $20, rental of the small pavilion from $51.50 to $100, rental of the large pavilion for up to 50 people from $102.50 to $200, and 51 to 100 people from $153.75 to $300.
Resident season passes would remain the same at $20, and $5 for seniors.
The one-day vehicle pass, Amaral said, is aimed at people who aren't Kittery residents. She pointed out Fort Foster is accessible year round, even when the gate is closed, and fees are only charged May through September.
"I think they’re reasonable," said Town Council Chairwoman Judy Spiller. "There are things we need to do in the park to maintain it. Unfortunately, most things in life come down to money and I think the residents shouldn't have to bear an undue burden associated with maintaining the fort. It’s the people who are the sometimes users. If you go there on weekends in the summer, it's filled with people from away."
Spiller called the season pass a "great deal" for residents.
The Town Council will meet Monday night at 6 p.m. in council chambers.