PALMER — The Mat-Su Borough Assembly unanimously passed Ordinance 21-035 which will allow for staff from community development and code compliance to fine people who do not pay daily parking fees or have yearly passes for borough parks beginning in June.
Borough Recreation and Library Services Manager Hugh Leslie briefed the Assembly on the ordinance, which notes that existing borough code contains provisions that have the potential to be violated but are not in the fine table. OR 21-035 updated the minor offense table to allow for enforcement of the previously established code. Leslie said that once he began working with the borough eight years ago, he instructed his staff to begin placing envelopes with daily fees under windshield wipers of cars parked at the trailheads. Each trailhead parking lot is visited at least once daily and Leslie said that thousands upon thousands of envelopes have been placed under windshield wipers with little success.
“This ordinance in front of you is sort of the final piece of the trailhead puzzle that we’ve been working on for many years,” said Leslie. “We’re only having between 30 and 50 percent compliance rate at the trailheads. That’s for annual or daily use fees, so we see this as an opportunity to gain compliance with those folks that use the trailheads. We don’t want this to be viewed as a punitive standpoint, we want this to encourage people to pay the daily use fees or buy that trailhead fee.”
During the month of May, borough staff will begin alerting trailhead users that parking fees will be enforced beginning in June. Leslie noted that when the borough waived all parking fees at the 10 trailhead parking lots where the borough collects daily parking fees in June of 2020, some trails saw an increase of 100 percent and others saw 300 percent increase in traffic. Leslie compared the yearly borough parking pass of $40 to the State Parks pass and ticket price of $70. Assemblywoman Stephanie Nowers asked that during the implementation of the trailhead parking fines, residents be permitted to get the fine waived if they provide proof of purchase of a yearly borough parks pass. Assemblyman Rob Yundt asked Leslie if additional staff would be required to hand out fines at all 10 trailhead parking lots.
“There will be no additional staff needed,” said Leslie. “People who love the trails are happy to pay that trial use fee and the people that aren’t paying it arguably will never pay that unless there’s some penalty phase and we also should acknowledge that those folks that have paid those trail use fees for years and years and years, they know that we can’t enforce that. This is the final step to be able to enforce that.”