Usage fees will allow Otter Creek to re-open

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Editorial: Dec. 7, 2010

The issue: Opening Otter Creek

Our view: Good for the community

When Louisville's metro government closed Otter Creek Park because of a budget crunch in January 2009, it was a sad day. The 2,100-acre preserve in Meade County had been owned by Louisville since just after World War II.  It seems that every person in the region has had a positive Otter Creek experience and considering that approximately 500,000 people per year visited the park, it’s easy to see how it has become a vital part of life for residents of the state.
But the gates have been closed for almost two years. The city of Louisville had been losing about $600,000 per year operating Otter Creek. When times are tough, tough decisions have to be made. While it was an understandable decision, it was disappointing to thousands of people to lose use of Otter Creek.
Realizing the importance of the preserve, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources signed an initial 20-year, no-cost lease to take over Otter Creek. The big question: How to pay for operating it?
The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s commissioner approved a plan that includes user fees for people who access the park. The proposed user fee would be charged on an individual basis of $3 per day or $30 per year for an annual pass. In addition, there would be a charge of $7 per day to participate in certain activities in the park such as horseback riding and archery. There also are ideas about allowing hunting and fishing in the park at certain times but those details are still to come.
On the surface, fees seem reasonable and most certainly are understandable. There is much to consider financially when operating a 2,100-acre facility that has more than a half million people a year using it. It will take a substantial effort just to get the park in shape to re-open because trails have grown over and buildings have had no maintenance for the last two years.
Reopening Otter Creek is a positive for all. The fees are necessary and much needed to keep it operating. These charges place a greater share of the cost of maintaining the park with people who choose to use it.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Department commissioners may want to consider a usage fee “per vehicle” rather than per person. It appears as if that may be far more manageable to administer. However it’s done, getting Otter Creek back in operation is a positive sign that we are moving in the right direction regionally.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.