Arlene, a local hiker/reader (last seen at this post about Ed Levin County Park), dropped me an e-mail this morning with the news that she’d just learned you don’t have to pay to park at Joseph D. Grant County Park — you can park free at another lot just down the road from the main entrance.
The parking fees are not that high — usually 6 bucks — but they are irksome in light of the fact that the county parks department is sitting on a surplus of some $85 million (while the rest of the county has a $140 million deficit and is cutting services).
There can’t be any doubt that the parking fees keep people away. Rancho San Antonio has free parking and the place is mobbed every weekend. Same story at Mission Peak. Parks with parking fees generally never draw the same kinds of crowds. I hike on weekends in some of the best public parks in the country near a city with nearly a million people and usually have the trails to myself if I’m in a park with fees.
From a hiking perspective this isn’t such a bad thing, but if the point of having parks is for the citizenry to partake in healthful outdoor activities, and the fees are discouraging said activities, you have to ask yourself whether the fees truly serve the parks’ purposes.
I can always rationalize that it’s not that much money, that my money’s going to a good cause (and even celebrate the first time in recorded history that bureaucrats have set money aside rather than spend every penny they can scrape up), but I can’t get totally over the annoyance.
(Not that I’d want a world without annoyance; what would I blog about?)
My solution to avoiding the fees in the local parks I use most frequently is to bicycle, or use a combination rail/bike strategy to get there.
Those fees are for parking, and don’t apply to cyclists or pedestrians.
That’s true as long as you want to visit parks within biking/walking distance.
I’m thinking if you rode your bike to Grant you wouldn’t have much energy left for hiking after the 15 miles of curves and hills.
Good point, but Rancho and Mission have minimal maintenance costs, and both are close to residential areas. Some of the other parks have more developed facilities that need more attention, like plumed toilets needing to be cleaned, trash to pickup, picnic areas to pickup, dog parks to maintain, green grass fields to be mowed, pavement to be swept, etc. I think the fees are more geared to compensate for that. Hikers are generally better stewards of the parks, and don’t need quite this level of service for what they do, so I agree that it seems like a rip off. Heck all I need is a map and a trail.
Actually, I don’t mind paying nominal usage fees it that will ensure the integrity of preserved lands, or to be used to acquire new lands, or develop new trails and facilities. But I would not want them to divert my usage fees to areas in which mismanagement has squandered their own budgets. I would also like to see a reduced price annual pass available that would let frequent parks users become a virtual “member” of the park. This could encourage volunteerism and stewardship, while saving folks some change. The people that come out occasionally for casual park use aren’t being hurt by the occasional 6 buck usage fees. They usually spend twice that on beer alone.
The senior citizen annual pass used to be free a few yrs ago and several of my friends got them…then they stopped and now it’s $65 for a senior citizen annual pass!! So not cool!
I am a big fan of Mission Peak. A great 2 1/2 hr workout. But I prefer the Ohlone College trailhead. I find that the Stanford Rd entrance (with free parking) is too steep too fast and the gravel makes walking more difficult. The Ohlone College entrance starts off a bit more gradual, takes you by some neat cattle and gives you a shade break. Then you begin the uphill workout. However, the College charges to park. Not much, true, but on weekends the place is a ghost town, yet they still charge. I got a $20 ticket. If we are to encourage people to get off their duffs and enjoy the outside, why do we have to charge to park? Now I just park on Mission Blvd and it only adds 8 minutes to reach the same trialhead. But AARRGGHH
Another observation: Seems a homeless person could get a windfall by collecting the empty plastic water bottles in the trash can near the outhouse up top.
admin wrote: “I’m thinking if you rode your bike to Grant you wouldn’t have much energy left for hiking after the 15 miles of curves and hills.”
Actually, a short hike (1 – 1.5 mi.) at Grant Ranch is a great way to stop and stretch my legs in non-cycling directions and rest my tailbone as a stop on the bicycle ride back down from Mount Hamilton.
And Rick, I’ve found that the best time to do that front-side hike of Mission Peak is under a full moon.