The New Bedford Park Board and Department of Parks, Recreation & Beaches (PRB) held a public hearing Wednesday night at the Fort Taber Community Center to present a fee structure being implemented next year and hear reaction from local event organizers. 

Park Board chairman Peter Boswell explained that demand for space in parks has greatly increased, and the city is one of just a few that has not been charging for use of these spaces. PRB only began charging for use of facilities in 2014.

Boswell said the fees will actually help maintain fairness over the use of public space among residents and organizations in the most requested areas.

"It keeps the public able to still access the park even with closing part of the park," Boswell said. "To take away taxpayer green space for a private event to me it was very important that we designated areas of the park that are most used."

Residents will pay $60/hour at Fort Taber and $50/hour at all other parks, non-profits and non-residents will pay $90/hour at Fort Taber and $80/hour at all other parks and for-profit organizations will pay $120/hour at all locations.

Rates for residents and non-profits will take place in three phases, 20% in 2017, 50% in 2018 and 100% in 2019. All other fees will be fully implemented in 2017.

Most groups in attendance appeared to accept the need to pay for their space, though all noted the entire process must be streamlined to offer more efficiency. They also added that they would like to have all fees from all city departments available when moving through the permitting process.

Boswell agreed with the idea, as his board has discretion over how high to cap fees per day and the costs associated with other departments would factor into that.

"Before we decide on any type of fees that we're going to incur on any type of event, I'd like to know what DPI is charging," said Boswell.

The new fee system will not apply to events that are free and open to the public, nor will they apply to other gatherings that don't require a Special Event permit.

All permitting information can be found here.