Huge weekend crowds in Bandera City Park since outside gatherings were allowed again in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the trash and law enforcement concerns those crowds have created convinced the Bandera City Council to double the admission charge to the park for non-county residents starting Wednesday, July 1.
Season park passes also doubled in price and park pavilion rentals were boosted from $65 to $100 by council members at their Thursday, June 18, but families with children were give a price break.
Currently, anyone age 3 and under are allowed into the park for free, but council changed that to allow anyone age 6 and younger to get free park admission.
City Administrator J. Horry said he had considered asking for admission to be charged at the park that borders the Medina River on the south side of Bandera all week because crowds had been getting bigger during the weekdays as well as the weekends.
But he eventually changed his mind and recommended that admission only be charged on Fridays through Sundays during the summer and on the Mondays of holiday weekends because local residents are more plentiful in the park during the week, and the crowds have grown to immense proportions on weekends.
Horry said the park was generating up to $8,500 a day in admission fees on some Saturdays or Sundays – which he called “the most money brought in (at the park) since I’ve been here” - and that up to 20,000 pounds of trash have been collected at the park on its busiest days.
That includes chairs, barbecue pits and other broken picnic items that are abandoned by visitors, at times in the river itself, the administrator said.
“You’d be surprised what they leave behind,” he told council.
Horry said he was not trying to keep people from coming to the park but felt like something needed to be done to keep the park presentable and safe for people to use.
“We need to keep the park the park,” said Horry.
Council members agreed to the hikes, though some were worried about going up so much at one time, and said they anticipated that the additional revenue could be used to increase trash pickup and the number of deputy marshals who patrol the park.
Those patrols could reduce the amount of speeding, illegal drinking, trespassing on private property and attempting to sneak into the park without paying that takes place on weekends, officials said.
The daily admission fee for out-of-county visitors will go from $5 to $10 as of July 1. Bandera County residents with identification will still pay $5, officials said.
Prices of season passes to the park were increased from $50 to $100 as of next week. Those passes will allow the holder to bring in up to five people in a vehicle.
Council also got a solidreport from Neffendorf & Knopp on its audit of the city’s 2018-2019 financial records.
The audit provided the city with an “unqualified opinion” on the city’s records and record keeping, which the company’s representative said was the finding “everyone strives for.”
Mayor Suzanne Schauman said she too was pleased with the audit findings and was “proud of how far we have come in three years.”