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City Beach parking fee mishandled

• Jun 16, 2017 at 1:00 PM

Grand Haven Township residents and officials aren’t thrilled with the new parking fee instituted at Grand Haven’s City Beach — and we don’t blame them.

At a recent Grand Haven City Council meeting, the decision was made to charge all non-city residents $10 to park in the City Beach parking lot on busy summer weekends.

In an apparent attempt to justify this fee, the city announced it would be handing all “proceeds” from this collection to the Save the Catwalk fund.

Grand Haven Township recently made its own unsolicited donation to help save the catwalk.

Township officials wondered out loud at Monday’s meeting why its residents — whose tax dollars directly funded that donation — now have to pay to park at City Beach.

If Grand Haven had simply decided to start charging all nonresidents for the right to park at the beach, we could get behind that. It’s prime real estate, and those spots are coveted — especially by those who don’t have a state park pass. We’re sure most would agree shelling out $10 to park steps from the water is infinitely more appealing than parking at a remote lot and having to haul your cooler, beach toys, towels and kids hundreds of yards to the beach.

But to turn the parking fee into a mandatory donation to Save the Catwalk comes across as a bad idea. People should be able to make their own choice where their money goes. If someone feels compelled to support the catwalk, great. But what if they’d prefer to give their charitable donations to their church, a local civic organization, or a recent high school graduate’s college fund?

Let’s be clear — we’re talking about a fairly small parking lot that has room for about 60 vehicles at a time, and a fraction of the space available at Grand Haven State Park, just a few dozen yards to the north.

And for Michigan residents, an annual pass at the state park (Passport) costs just $11, so dropping $10 to park at City Beach  for one day certainly doesn’t make much sense. In fact, unless the state park is at capacity, we can’t imagine why anyone other that city residents would even consider parking in the city lot.

Maybe that’s what City Council had in mind all along?

We understand the desire by those on City Council to begin capitalizing on their little gold mine of a parking lot on the shores of Lake Michigan. But that money should be re-invested into the beach, or disappear into the city’s coffers. It shouldn’t become a forced donation. That’s just a bad idea.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Mark Brooky. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

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