Selectmen Approve 2021 Parks & Rec Fees; Apply Early and Avoid $5.00 Beach Card Fee Hike

On Friday the Board of Selectmen voted to approve changes to Parks & Rec fees for 2021. The fee schedule was presented at the last Selectmen meeting and Parks & Rec director said his department had not received public feedback.

Siciliano said that since the pandemic there have been added expenses to operate the beaches and in particular monitor Tod’s Point.

The fee for a child pass will increase $3.00 from $7.00 to $10.00.

Parks & Rec does give out about 1,000 park passes for people in need who pre-qualify through social services.

Most of the discussion focused on the increase of $5.00 for a beach season pass from $35 to $40, though if residents apply before April 15, the price stays $35.

“People don’t realize that Memorial Day comes and everyone wants to apply for a park pass,” said Parks & Rec director Joe Siciliano. “The system gets clogged up with multiple applications. We launched the park pass applications yesterday (Thursday).”

Blaize Levitan said in the first day there were already 400 applications to establish or re-establish residency.

Siciliano said residents have all of February, March and half of April to go online with their proof of residencies.

“Hopefully when we come to May, the $5 might not make a different to too many people, but we’re trying to front load it so that we can easily process the passes we receive into May and the beginning of June and not have a two week backlog and have to hire additional people to process,” he explained.

Because of the pandemic there are residents whose driver’s licenses have expired. Mr. Siciliano said it would be possible to work around that, given there are other options to prove residency.

He said the existing beach passes will be updated remotely and bar codes will continue to be scanned at the gate house at the beach entrance.

The fee for a child will rise from $7.00 to $10, and the child accompaniment fee increases from $35 to $40.

Asked whether Greenwich’s fees were comparable to nearby beach towns, Siciliano said other towns look to Greenwich when they determine their fees, given Greenwich had faced a lawsuit over beach access.

He said Greenwich’s fees are comparable to nearby beach towns, though towns like Westport charge a fee per vehicle, whereas Greenwich charges per person in addition to a $40 fee per car.

Select person Jill Oberlander asked that a separate vote be taken on a $1.00 increase from $8 to $9 on daily park passes which residents purchase for themselves rather than a season pass or to bring a guest with them.

She noted that the guest passes expire at the end of the season and not all of them get used.

“I think that for the park pass, as a public utility, public recreation site, I’d like to keep those fees as low as possible, particularly in a time of economic distress,” she said.

Siciliano said the $1.00 increase would generate $50,000.

Oberlander said there are currently conversations about equity at the state level and recommended keeping waterfront fees flat.

“I don’t think that’s the right message to send right now,” she said.

Also, Oberlander said last summer residents whose adult children had moved home due to the pandemic were allowed to have beach passes. She asked whether that could be repeated.

“We can execute if we need to,” Siciliano said. “People will become very comfortable with the program so we need to be careful.”

“Many of us are limiting our pods to our family and extended family,” Oberlander said. “I think that if we can do it for one more summer I would encourage it.”

Selectwoman Rabin said she was torn, but ultimately voted to approve the increase. The vote was 2-1.

The vote on the fee schedule overall was 3-0.

(Residency renewal and Park Pass are often used interchangeably, but they are two different processes. At the start of the year, residents could either go online to renew residency or, if it’s their first time, submit an application for residency verification. Establishing or renewing proof of residency is required prior to purchasing Park Passes.

Park passes sale starts Feb 1. Those who already have their residency verified can now purchase right away.

Residency verification is for more than just park passes, it is for many other programs. For example, it is used to book reservation at Hamill Rink for public skate.)

Click here to renew your beach pass for 2021.