BULLHEAD CITY — Visitors to Community Park in Bullhead City last weekend noticed a big change.
Especially if they were visiting the park from outside Bullhead City.
It was the first weekend in which the city charged non-residents to park vehicles at Community Park.
There were 650 vehicles filled with people who paid to drive through and park within Community Park from Friday through Sunday, according to the city. Each of these non-resident vehicles was charged $20.
“We felt it was a pretty good start,” said Dave Heath, the city’s parks and recreation superintendent.
Only a couple of visitors didn’t want to pay and said they would opt to go to one of the other local parks with Colorado River access, he said.
“Community Park is a higher-volume park used mostly by tourists on the weekends,” said City Manager Toby Cotter. “The Colorado River Nature Center and Rotary Park are primarily used by local residents.”
Cotter stressed that the city isn’t going to charge a parking fee this summer at either Rotary Park or the Nature Center.
Not everyone has to pay to park at Community Park. People with proof of Bullhead City residency aren’t charged the $20 fee. Bring a government-issued identification card or utility bill to show proof of residency.
Not even all visitors have to pay. People who purchase watercraft launch passes or commercial watercraft launch passes for outdoor fun in the Colorado River won’t be required to shell out the money either.
“If you have a trailer, we know why you’re there,” Heath said.
Those visitors are allowed to pay for their launch passes inside the park.
The money will be used to handle maintenance at Community Park.
“We love all of our visitors. But there is a heavy price tag at the end of each weekend when you add in all of the labor and supply costs. Those costs cannot be borne only by the city. The users will be paying,” Cotter said.
The Bullhead City Council late last year held a workshop with the Parks and Recreation Commission that focused on Community Park. Charging out-of-towners a fee to park at Community Park was one of the topics discussed.
The consensus was to not charge residents money to use their local park.
Heath said that locals were mostly glad to see the fee implemented.
Without the visitors’ parking fee, increased use of Community Park would require a larger share of the city’s general fund money to pay for services and upkeep related to recreational uses of the river there, Cotter warned at the time.
An increase from $5 to $10 this year for each Consumer Protection Advisory Form for watercraft rental is meant to specifically offset the city’s cost to furnish lifeguards in the Community Park section of the river.
Owners of personal watercraft rental businesses purchase these forms and pass the cost along to customers. The customers are required to sign the forms after watching a mandatory water safety video before taking their rental watercraft out on the river.
That increased revenue source alone won’t address the need for a stronger police presence or keeping the park, beach and its facilities clean — including the restrooms.
Cotter said extreme cleaning of the restrooms and portable toilets every hour, as well as cleaning up trash, at Community Park requires four people.
And because of the continuing COVID-19 outbreak, workers at Community Park also spend time educating people about the need to keep adequate social distancing and adhere to other practices that will lessen the spread of the virus among people at the park.
City employees have said they expect Community Park to be very busy again this summer. After last year’s improvements, an estimated 5,000 people were using Community Park on Aug. 31, which was a part of the Labor Day weekend.
Non-residents coming after Labor Day this year won’t have to pay to park there.