The decision to establish an entry fee to Fourth of July at the Lake was tabled Tuesday night because the Lodi Parks and Recreation Commission wanted more information from city staff.
The commission voted 4-0 to table the item until the March 4 meeting so that staff could determine how many people attended the Lodi Rotary Club-run event before the City of Lodi took it over, and what revenue the club collected from the event.
“Charging a fee isn’t bad,” commissioner Larry Long said. “I think it’s appropriate. I just don’t feel we’re educated enough to set (a fee) tonight.”
The city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department first brought forward the idea of charging a fee at a Jan. 7 city council shirtsleeve session. At that meeting, staff recommended a $3 entry fee to Fourth of July at the Lake, an amount similar to everyday beach access fees.
The recreation department night did not have a proposed fee for the commission to approve on Tuesday.
The Lodi Rotary Club hosted its Oooh Aaah Festival at the lake from 1993 until 2007, charging $8 for adult entry and $5 for children, according to Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Jeff Hood. When the city took over the event in 2008, it became Fourth of July at the Lake, and the entrance fee was dropped.
Hood said the entrance fee will not only generate some much needed revenue for the department, but it will also help cover the cost of portable outhouse maintenance and post-event cleanup.
Commissioners wanted to know how many people attended last year’s event and how much the Rotary generated in revenue. Jennifer Winn, a recreation department staff member, said attendance does not generally pick up at the event until mid-afternoon, when about 300 to 400 people usually begin entering the park. Crowds really pick up closer to 5 p.m., and the park generally has about 1,000 people by 7 p.m., she said. Staff did not yet know how much revenue was generated.
Commissioner Rick Morgan asked Hood what will keep people who want to watch the fireworks — which typically begin about 9 p.m. — from staking out a space on the other side of Turner Road.
“What you’d be getting (with an entry fee) is the value of a safe event,” Hood said. “We can’t guarantee absolute safety, but the event has become much safer since we put up fencing.”
The event has been fenced since 1993, after a couple of gang-related incidents prompted the city and Lodi police to begin screening attendees for contraband such as alcohol and weapons.
Commissioner Barbara Wardrobe-Fox said that when the Rotary Club managed the event, it did not have much more to do than what the city has been offering since 2008. She said there may have been a couple of bounce houses for kids, but the Rotary Club charged an additional ticket to use them.
“I think people got lucky the last five years because they were provided a safer environment and didn’t have to pay for it,” she said. “You can’t get that in Stockton. Theirs is free too, but you wouldn’t want to be in that environment.”
Long said while he wasn’t opposed to charging a fee, he didn’t want to set one that might keep people from attending the event.
“We need to find out who else does charge, find out what they charge, and see what the response is from the residents who attend their events,” he said.
Staff will return to the March 4 recreation meeting with revenue and attendance numbers from the Oooh Aaah Festival, as well as information on what other communities in the area do for a Fourth of July event.
Commissioner David Akin was absent from the meeting.
Contact reporter Wes Bowers at firstname.lastname@example.org.