Charging for Stearns Park parking not a wise choice.

February 23, 2017

Charging for Stearns Park parking not a wise choice.

Editorial by Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief. 

It’s no secret that Ludington is one of the tourist hot spots along the Lake Michigan shoreline. One of the successes of Ludington and the surrounding area is free access to the beach. A recent discussion at the Ludington City Council may change that. While charging non city residents to park at Stearns Park is currently only in the discussion phase, it’s still obviously a topic that is being considered. We think it’s an idea that may have negative effects on Ludington. We also believe that it is likely contradictory to the spirit of the gift of the park to the city by the Stearns family.

It is understandable why this discussion is being held, the city faces some general fund shortfalls over the next few years. The city is expected to exceed revenues by $264,400 in 2018 and by $125,200 in 2019. By law, the city must have a balanced budget. We get it. In order to balance that budget you either need to raise revenues or cut expenses.

There is a certain logic that there is perhaps an unfair advantage that tax payers and residents are already paying for the services and non taxpayers reap the benefits. But, the bigger picture goes beyond that. Those non taxpayers are visitors to the city and spend money at the businesses in the city. Asking them to pay for parking at Stearns Park is discouraging those people from visiting Ludington and perhaps encouraging them to seek their beach time and their financial spending elsewhere.

Commenters on MCP’s Facebook page have pointed out the obvious: People will resort to parking on the side streets east of Stearns Park, causing congestion in the neighborhoods. The residents in those areas find Gus Macker distressing, wait until the congestion is a daily occurrence.

Another consideration to charging for parking is the question of enforcement. Will this mean that the city’s beach patrol hours will have to be increased to enforce the parking passes? Will this also mean that the police department will also have to spend more time patrolling those neighborhoods east of the park to enforce parking regulations there?

Back to the budget shortfall, which is kind of the elephant in the room. Increasing the city’s millage would also seem to be an unfair solution and probably a consideration that ranks lower than charging non residents for city services. That leaves the solution to the budget as raising revenues from other places or cutting services. We encourage you to be part of the discussion and provide input to Ludington’s elected officials. Look at the city budget and help find a solution to the shortfall. 

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