Pioneer Press: Higher Fees for Using Parks

In this article, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports the City of Lakes Marathon may be cancelled because the Park Board has doubled its fees.

» Minnesota officially joined the world of marathon running when three men led by future Olympian Ron Daws of Minneapolis completed 26.2 miles in an event billed as the Land O’ Lakes Marathon on the Twin Cities river roads in the fall of 1963.

That race, which evolved into the City of Lakes Marathon and was the precursor of the Twin Cities Marathon, had numerous luminaries as leaders of the pack, including U.S. 50-mile record-holder Barney Klecker of Minnetonka, future Olympian Janis (Horns) Klecker of Minnetonka, Boston Marathon runner-up Steve Hoag of Minneapolis, world age-group record-setter Alex Ratelle of Edina and women’s running pioneer Jan Arenz of St. Paul.

Grandma’s Marathon record-holder Dick Beardsley dropped out of his first marathon at City of Lakes. My first marathon was in the City of Lakes in 1979. Oprah Winfrey ran the City of Lakes 25K several years ago.

Modified to a 25-kilometer road race using lakes Harriet and Calhoun in Minneapolis since the TCM began in 1982, the City of Lakes is in danger of being canceled, according to race director Barb Leininger, because user fees charged by the Minneapolis Parks Department have been doubled.

“It certainly makes you wonder whether it’s economical to continue the race,” Leininger said.

User fees were instituted many years ago, ending an era when events on parks property were charged for police protection and medical personnel but little else. The fees charged in 1981 by the Minneapolis parks were 50 cents per participant, but the number has gone up faster than gasoline prices.

This October, for example, the Twin Cities Marathon will fork over $14 per finisher to the Minneapolis parks system, based on a formula in which each runner is charged $2 per park segment. Runners travel through seven Minneapolis park segments during the TCM.

In contrast, the TCM is charged 50 cents per runner by the St. Paul parks.

The park board fees were actually doubled last year, but the change was not implemented until 2005, said Shane Stenzel, manager of special services. “It’s based on impact,” he said. “It was determined they would pay more for using more.”

Virginia Brophy Achman, executive director of the TCM, said the organization will absorb spending an additional $55,000 in parks fees this year without increasing its entry fee of $75 per runner, and it won’t alter its course.

“That’s the beauty of our race – the parkways,” she said.

The City of Lakes 25K is scheduled for Sept. 11, three weeks before the Oct. 2 TCM, and has become a prime preparatory event for the longer event. The 25K uses three parkway segments, Leininger said. Last year, the race had expenses of about $22,000 and paid $8,500 to the Minneapolis parks department. When fewer runners participated than expected, Leininger was told she was due a refund of $3,000.

Factoring that in, the race broke even last year, although it’s still $3,000 short because “we have yet to see the money,” she said.

The demise of the City of Lakes would be a blow to the running community, Leininger said.

“It’s been a tradition for a lot of years, and a lot of people count on it,” she said. “I think people would be extremely surprised if it didn’t continue.”

In the beginning, she said, the Minneapolis parks department was a sponsor of the race and did not charge a fee. «