Evanston’s Parks and Recreation Board voted unanimously Thursday night to oppose charging non-residents to park at recreation centers.
Evanston already charges non-residents $3 an hour to park at Lake Michigan beaches, and Ald. Devon Reid (8th) had floated the idea of expanding the program to recreation centers as a way to raise additional revenue without putting the fee burden on residents.
But board member John Bryan said Evanston “already has a bad name for parking,” and adding fees at rec centers would just keep non-residents, who might otherwise shop and go to Evanston restaurants, away from town.
Board chair Robert Bush said “you might as well put in toll booths on Ridge, Dempster and Main” if you wanted to charge non-residents to park at places like Robert Crown Center.
Many non-residents already are paying fees to participate in events at the rec centers.
The idea of a parking fee first surfaced because of parking shortages at Crown during high-attendance events, such as hockey tournaments.
With not enough spots at the Center, the hope was that the parking lot would end up with mostly Evanstonians if non-residents had to pay.
But Bush said an out-of-town parking fee at a place like Crown could actually backfire.
“Everyone knows there’s a parking problem at Robert Crown,” he said. A fee woud actually “force more people back into the neighborhoods.”
Jeff Totsch, a new board member in his first meeting, said charging out of town fees would be like “forcing grandma to pay” to watch her grandchild compete.
City Council has final say on whether to add the non-resident parking fees.