The City of Lander is looking into several options for addressing a recent increase in camping at Lander City Park.
The Lander City Council discussed the issue during a work session this week, focusing first on the possibility of charging fees for camping at the park.
Public works director Lance Hopkin said that option poses some challenges: Cash drop boxes could be vandalized or stolen, for example, and more staff time would be required to collect the fees and potentially provide additional services for campers at the park “depending (on) their expectation for a campground.”
The parks department doesn’t “have the capacity or the staff to do that” right now, Hopkin said, and it’s unlikely that the fees would generate enough revenue to justify hiring a campground host.
The city could use an online payment system to collect camping fees, Councilmember Missy White pointed out, but she noted that there isn’t a “structure in place” to verify that people have paid.
She also agreed with other council members who said the city needs to “define what our goal is.”
For White, one goal would be to provide more structure at the park, with clearly designated areas for parking and camping.
“City Park feels overrun,” she said. “I was there Thursday morning … at 6:20 a.m. and there were 54 vehicles camping in City Park. And a number of them were right along the parkway.
“(The) part that myself and many other residents are using has lost its charm.”
She offered several suggestions for managing park use, including disallowing vehicle parking on the “river side” of City Park Drive “until you’re past McManus Bridge.”
There could also be “better clarification” about the portions of the park that are open for tent camping, White said, suggesting the boundary could run along “the east side of the ditch from south of the stage to the City Park entrance.”
“(We could) have a map of it,” she said.
Councilmember Julia Stuble pointed out that the city could take those kinds of steps without charging a fee for camping – a move that she was “skeptical” would “actually make money.”
She did express support for efforts to generate more donations from park users, however, by setting up a “simpler” system for collections, for example, or promoting the opportunity more in the community.
Earlier in the meeting, Hopkin reported that the city has received about $500 in donations from park users this year, including about $155 that came in during the International Climbers Festival.
“I think that we can do a dramatic increase over (that amount) if we put a little bit of effort … into it,” Councilmember John Larsen said. “I’m very much in favor of having a voluntary fee.”
“I don’t really think that’s going to work,” Councilmember Dan Hahn replied, expressing his preference for an “honor box” where fee payments could be deposited at City Park. “I am for trying to actually do a box with an envelope, just like you do out at Boysen, and see how that works.”
The council asked staff to do some research into the options mentioned this week so more information would be available for consideration during a future work session on the topic.
In the meantime, White said, the city could begin promoting the donation opportunities at City Park more actively, and start working to direct vehicle parking and tent camping to certain locations.
“I’d love to see where that gets us,” she said. “Over the wintertime (we can) get more information … and see what kind of enhancements we can make to it and be ready for next summer full force.”
For more information call the City of Lander at 332-2870.