In a split vote on May 15, the Fishers City Council approved a $50 fee for nonresidents to park at the soon-to-open Geist Waterfront Park. The motion passed 7-2, with council members Jocelyn Vare and Crystal Neumann dissenting.
Jake Reardon-McSoley, City of Fishers director of Recreation and Wellness, told the council the fee will be charged only during “beach season,” which is approximately Memorial Day weekend through early November. The rest of the year, there would be no charge.
Reardon-McSoley said parking is limited, which is part of the reason for the fee for nonresidents. Fishers residents can download a Smart App to park for free, but there may be times when even local residents would be turned away because of a full lot.
He noted that anyone can walk or bike to the park and be admitted at no charge. He added that at Saxony Beach, the community charged $7 per person — which averaged about $35 per vehicle — and that park had very little development compared to Geist Waterfront Park.
Vare said she is concerned that the $50 fee sends a message that nonresidents aren’t welcome.
“It seems extremely high for a parking charge,” she said. “I think it’s appropriate for a nonresident to pay a fee, but an affordable fee.”
She asked how the community built a park with inadequate parking.
Reardon-McSoley said the lot has 240 spots, and up to 20 will be used daily by staff. He said the parking lot actually reflects the park’s capacity from a safety standpoint.
“Essentially, the parking reflects peak usage at an appropriate and safe level,” he said.
Mayor Scott Fadness said safety must be a priority, and if there are capacity issues related to safety, then Fishers residents paying for the park through their taxes should have priority.
“If the demand isn’t there, the more the merrier,” he said. “But for now, we are on the side of safety and the side of taxpayers.”
Vare proposed reducing the fee to $10 per vehicle, but that motion didn’t receive a second.
Other council members said they believed the $50 fee was reasonable. Todd Zimmerman said the cost encourages efficiency because more people will carpool, rather than taking separate vehicles.
Council member Pete Peterson proposed approving the $50 per day fee, but for just one year. Then the city can revisit it and adjust if needed. That motion is the one that eventually passed with the 7-2 vote.
Geist Waterfront Park is a 70-acre site. About 40 acres are currently developed with a 900-yard beach, swimming in the summer months with lifeguards on duty from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., a pirate-themed playground, trails, a boat launch for non-motorized watercraft, and vendors on-site.