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Fairfax parks could run out of money by 2014

Seal of the Fairfax County Park Authority

Fairfax County's parks could be out of money by 2014 unless they receive a cash infusion or increase their fees, officials said Tuesday morning.

William G. Bouie, chairman of the Fairfax County Park Authority's board of directors, told a joint meeting of county and park officials that budget cuts, lingering debt from several large park projects and slowing revenues are cutting into the agency's bottom line.

"As we become more creative, in the way we stretch our programs and services, we are coming to the realization that we may run out of money for our projects soon," he said.

Bouie said officials will consider implementing park entrance fees unless a "sustainable long-term financial solution" is found.

According to figures provided to the county, by 2014, the Park Authority's $42.3 million in annual revenues would be outweighed by its anticipated expenses and debt service obligations. In short, Fairfax's parks would be about $236,000 in debt.

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One of the ideas floated Tuesday to raise revenues was corporate naming rights -- a prospect that has received a chilly reception from several county officials.

"You have to be realistic. This is a county park. This isn't Fenway Park," said Harrison A. Glasgow, the Park Authority's vice chairman and a longtime environmental activist.

But business leaders and several county supervisors say corporate advertising could fill the agency's depleted coffers.

Octagon, a New York-based marketing firm, has been hired as a consultant to look at potential corporate advertising for the county's park system, which encompasses 22,500 acres of parks, fields, trails and historic sites.

Fairfax began toying with the idea of naming rights back in October, issuing a request for proposals for potential corporate donors.

Among the facilities listed on the bidding document: county-owned lakes, nature and recreation centers, golf courses, reservable picnic sites, the summer entertainment series and the future Laurel Hill SportsPlex near Occoquan.

The Fairfax County school system has also looked at whether advertising agreements could become a new revenue source.

By Derek Kravitz  |  May 18, 2010; 10:39 AM ET
Categories:  Derek Kravitz , Fairfax County  | Tags: Advertising, Business, Counties, Fairfax, Fairfax County, Fairfax County Virginia, United States, Virginia  
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Perhaps they could sell some of the land that they have acquired over the years. I'm not opposed to the naming rights approach, but they could certainly trim the number of acres under management without affecting the overall quality.

The parks system also needs to be more attuned to opening up the parks to uses that are currently prohibited, including open-water swimming. It's not only the vastness of assets under management, it's the uses to which the parks are not being utilized.

Posted by: BrettCoffee | May 18, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

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