Saugatuck City Council Raises Oval Beach Parking Fee To Help Offset Cost Of Road & Guardrail Repair
Citing ways to offset various city costs, Saugatuck officials at Monday’s meeting voted to nominally increase the daily parking fees for Oval Beach as well as eliminate the Chain Ferry “token” system that cut the passage fee in half when tokens were purchased in large quantities.
In the city’s recent road projects review under its capital improvement plan prepared by city engineering firm Fleis & Vandenbrink, officials identified Perryman Street, the street leading to the Oval Beach entrance, as on the list for needed repairs.
The projected cost to reconstruct the entire road surface as well as replace the guardrail along the road is approximately $300,000.
A few meetings back, city council considered raising the daily parking fee for Oval Beach from $8 to $10 as a way to shift that expense from the local taxpayer to the Oval Beach visitor. Council directed staff to analyze the potential revenue.
“The $2 increase would generate approximately $75,000 a year (on a five-year average of paid daily receipts) if everything remains consistent (the number of season pass sales, usage of the beach park, favorable weather, beach operating expenses, etc.),” Saugatuck City Manager Kirk Harrier reported during Monday’s meeting.
“South Haven recently raised its daily parking fee to $10 and Holland and Grand Haven’s is currently at $9, (so) that ($2 increase) didn’t seem exorbitant,” said Harrier.
The increase approved Monday has no affect on the other existing parking lot entrance fees; the $50 seasonal pass for non-residents and the $20 season pass for local taxpayers will remain the same.
This is the second increase in the last three years; in 2015, the city increased daily parking from $6 to $8 and the season pass from $40 to $50. Before that, the last increase occurred in 2010.
The beach is open and charges patrons from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and the beach gate is locked at 10 p.m.
As for the Chain Ferry, Saugatuck officials pointed out that it’s actually being subsidized by the city, operating at a loss for most of the time.
An analysis shows that only four fiscal years of the last nine years has generated a nominal profit, while the rest of the years the ferry has operated in the negative (for example in the last fiscal year, 2015-2016, the city generated some $36,000 but had $32,000 in operating expenses).
Despite being far from a revenue-generating operation, city officials do want to preserve the Chain Ferry as it has become an iconic feature of Saugatuck and a big tourist attraction. They pointed out that it is the only hand-cranked chain ferry left in the country.
“We’ve been fortunate to keep it going. We’ve had to rebuild it a couple of times,” pointed out Saugatuck City Council Member Mark Bekken.
The council Monday also moved to get rid of the token system which offers 1/2 off of the regular Chain Ferry passage fee of $1 when bought by the public in a 50-token bundle.
“$1 to take the Chain Ferry, I don’t think is exorbitant,” said Saugatuck City Council Member Bill Hess.