Federal Way increases park rental rates for non-residents

Non-residents of Federal Way will now pay more to reserve coveted recreation space at the city's parks and special event sites.

Locations such as Steel Lake Park, Celebration Park and Saghalie Middle School feature picnic spots and areas used for special events. A reservation is not needed to use the city's picnic tables, covered areas or open space. But it guarantees the location will be available on a specific date for a birthday party, family reunion or civic event, for example.

On Tuesday, the council voted to increase, by 50 percent, year-round non-resident fees to reserve a picnic or special event area. Council also voted to keep Federal Way residents' rates the same during the peak season and lower the prices by 25 percent during the off-season, November to April. Prior to Tuesday, reservation fees were the same for residents and non-residents.

Staking out a spot

Picnic and special event spaces can be reserved by the public beginning January. Historically, sites are spoken for before summer arrives, said Steve Ikerd, parks and facilities manager. At Steel Lake Park alone, site one was reserved for July and August weekend use by the middle of February, Ikerd said.

"January, they start calling for reservations," Ikerd said. "It fills up real quick."

The park offers the city's only reservable picnicking spaces. Five sites differ in size and amenities, including proximity to the lake, abundance of tables, covered shelter and number of barbecue pits.

Non-residents who have yet to reserve a spot will be subject to the new rates. They will pay $90- $135 to reserve a picnic area from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The lower rate applies to parties of 80 or less. The higher rate is charged for sites that accommodate up to 120 individuals. Non-residents will also see a larger payment — $20 to $27 per hour — for time reserved beyond the six-hour time frame.

Federal Way residents will escape the price jump. Residents will be charged $60 to $90, dependent mostly on group size, to reserve picnic space. Additional time is $15 to $25 per hour. To boot, residents will see discounted rates, from $45 to $68 depending on group size, to reserve picnic spots during the colder off-season.

Special event rates

Special events held by non-residents, such as the Kiwanis Salmon Bake or Relay for Life, will also be subjected to rate hikes. Non-residents will now pay $75 to $225 to reserve a space for four hours. The rates apply to groups of 50 to 250 persons.

Rates — $50 to $150 — will remain unchanged for Federal Way residents during the peak season. Prices will drop to between $38 and $113 during the off-season.

Extra amenities cost the same for residents and non-residents. There is a $10 charge to rent tables. A $5 fee is administered for additional trash cans. Electricity to the site costs $20, or $50 for the day.

Identifying a trend

The rate change was initiated when staff began to notice overcrowding at Steel Lake Park this last year. The city conducted a survey and found Federal Way's picnic and special event spaces went for a price cheaper than those found in neighboring cities. Having a bustling schedule was good for revenues, but it limited Steel Lake Park's availability to locals, Ikerd told the city council in February when staff originally suggested across-the-board rate increases.

"We've been having so much popularity with these sites here that we've actually been having to close the gates early afternoon on many Saturdays just because the parking lot fills up to full capacity," he said.

Several council members said they were not in favor of raising reservation fees for residents.

"This may be the only source of amusement a lot of people can afford," deputy mayor Dini Duclos said.

Council members asked staff to bring back a rate schedule reflecting differences between local and non-local prices. The differentiation was needed "so that we ensure residents have an opportunity to enjoy the facilities that they are paying for with their taxes," council member Jeanne Burbidge said.

The rate change is the first in five years, Ikerd said. The new prices are competitive, even lower in some cases, than those charged in nearby cities, he said.

The city currently brings in about $11,800 annually from picnic and special event reservations. It's hard to estimate how the new rates will affect future revenues, Ikerd said.

Check it out

Reserve a Steel Lake Park picnic site spot or a special event site by calling (253) 835-6964.

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