Got greenbacks? Enjoy the greens

With dwindling open space in Peninsula cities, the cost for using fields for sporting events and activities could be rising, as cities attempt to raise enough money to continue providing quality grass or turf surfaces.

Many local cities have fees in place to support field maintenance and upgrades, but as the cost of water and labor increases along with the demand from year-round sports, many cities are finding that more needs to be done.

“We definitely need more money than the parcel tax is providing, daily maintenance we’re OK on, but capital projects we need more,” San Carlos Department of Parks and Recreation Director Barry Weiss said. San Carlos passed a parcel tax almost a decade ago to collect $6 per parcel for field work. The city also charges $20 an hour for use of lights on two of the city’s seven fields.

The San Carlos field maintenance budget — approximately $1.3 million — is taken care of by a parcel tax of $6 per parcel passed in 1999, after the city entertained its own fee increases. Weiss said the city is considering a second parcel tax or even a field-use fee similar to Belmont’s to meet the fields’ demands.

Belmont’s City Councilapproved fees of $20 and $40 for resident and nonresident league athletes per season of play.

“If you don’t address declining athletic fields, they’ll only get worse and worse until they reach a state you can no longer play on them,” Belmont Interim Co-Director of Parks and Recreation George Brunson said. “This will only allow us to address safety and playability — we’ll still need some capital improvement funding to actually make improvements.”

San Mateo does use a per player fee, but far less than Belmont. Each player is charged a $2.50 administrative fee, and leagues pay $4 to $8 per field per day, depending on the demand at the time. The city’s general fund is used to maintain field quality, but Community Services Manager Paul Council said funding is tight.

“Adequately maintaining our fields has always been a challenge,” he said.

And although some residents were concerned that an increase in fees would drive players away, Dan Dutra, president of the Belmont-Redwood Shores Little League, said that even after raising their player fees to $150 from $125 — to cover the anticipated fee increase — they still had 150 players sign up two weekends ago for the league.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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