The COVID-19 pandemic took a significant toll on the Fairfax County Park Authority’s revenue for Fiscal Year 2020, which lasted from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020, the department says in its annual report on proposed fee adjustments for the coming year.
With parks and recreation facilities closed for the spring and a portion of the summer, the park authority saw its net operating fund revenue decrease by $6.8 million from FY 2019, even after it cut down on expenses and fully depleted its stabilization reserve fund.
The agency says it anticipates revenue to remain down “significantly” for FY 2021, as health concerns and social distancing protocols continue to affect the availability and capacity of RECenters and other facilities.
The park authority also analyzed the county’s economic climate, including retail sales and unemployment claims, when developing its FY 2021 fee adjustment proposal.
“Collective consideration of these factors has resulted in a modest fee proposal that attempts to remain sensitive to economic conditions, the market dynamics and operational limitations associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for revenue growth,” the FCPA said in its report.
The park authority says outdoor parks have been “heavily used” during the pandemic as people seek safe ways to exercise and engage in recreation.
However, the nearly 2 million park visits in FY 2020 represent an 8.9% decrease from the previous year, and the cancelation of all registered programs and camps contributed to a 50% drop in total revenue.
While Fairfax County’s golf courses have seen a surge in demand since reopening in May, RECenter attendance levels ended the year 25% below FY 2019. Before the facilities closed in March, attendance had been up by 1.12 million people, or 11.6%.
Continued uncertainty about how COVID-19 will affect facility attendance and capacity next year led the FCPA to not recommend any changes to RECenter fees.
“This year’s fee recommendations address those areas in which revenue opportunities exist based on shifting park use patterns resulting from the pandemic,” the FCPA said.
- Proposed fee changes relevant to the Reston area include:
- Canoe and kayak rental fees at Lake Fairfax parks
- Fishing kayak rental fees at Riverbend Park
- Non-electric and election campsite fees at Lake Fairfax parks
- Pedal boat rental fees at Lake Fairfax parks
The proposed fee changes will collectively generate an estimated $149,258 in additional revenue for FY 2021 and $356,529 in FY 2022, according to the FCPA.
The park authority board is scheduled to approve an advertisement for a Jan. 20, 2021 public comment meeting on the fee proposal when it meets at 5 p.m. on Wednesday (Dec. 9).
After a 30-day comment period from Jan. 6 to Feb. 4, the board will take action on the proposal on Mar. 10. If approved, the new fee adjustments would take effect on Apr. 1.
Photo via Fairfax County Park Authority