We have an issue that needs to be brought up.
Recently we, the public, were able to keep Wilderness Trails open 7 days a week from the budget cuts that were coming across the board in all areas of county operations, not just Wilderness Trails.
One of the short term solutions was a parking fee of $2.00 per vehicle at Morris Bridge, Trout Creek, and Flatwoods. In addition, Tuesday night rides doubled in price. This doesn't mean next fiscal year we won't be faced with the same hurdle of closures, and even before this year finishes out. There was a big meeting about this, and many folks were involved, and local news recorded it as well. Many people said paying a user fee was preferable to closing the park on weekends and by 5:00 p.m.
Now, $2.00 per vehicle does not do much to offset the budget of Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation. Figure 75 or 80 vehicles on a weekend day is only $150 - $160. Lets say, for figuring purposes, one ranger is paid $9.00 an hour for an 8 hour shift and he works both Saturday and Sunday. That costs $144 without figuring in - equipment, vehicles, employee benefits, etc. We all know more than one ranger does work these two shifts, not to mention Monday through Friday.
This past Sundays ride at Trout Creek - park management recorded about 15 vehicles with SWAMP stickers did not display the tear off tag for the iron ranger payment on their vehicle. Does this mean the BIG signs alerting everyone to the pay stations were ignored, or that they just did not display the tear tag so it was easy to detect payment for park personnel? $2.00 is a small price to pay to have this great trail system available to us pretty much when ever we want to ride it. There is no certainty about how long this will be with not enough money in the budget. Housing is still depressed which all of us know is where much of the budget money comes from for opportunities like this.
Please be aware that we all need to do our part to help out in these trying times. When using the park be sure to put your $2.00 in the envelope for the iron ranger AND hang the tag from your rear view mirror.
Thanks to all.
SWAMP Club President