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How much should Claremont spend on Wilderness Park parking?

A proposed $1 million parking expansion to the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park and Thompson Creek Trail received less than rave reviews at Thursday night’s Community Services Commission meeting. The project is scheduled for final review by city council next month.

Commissioners, wary of the price tag and size of the project, suggested the council return the project back to staff to reevaluate alternatives before moving forward with the 7-figure project.

“This plan is way too aggressive for what we’re talking about,” said Commissioner Donna Lowe. “It seems that city, state, and federal government always have these big, broad, pie in the sky ideas and they say, ‘Oh it’s going to be paid for by this.’ Well that goes away and then we, the taxpayers, have to come up with the revenue stream, and then we’re up here trying to figure out where we are going to get this cash from.”

Proposed expansions include the north lot located at Mills Avenue as well as the current “overflow” lot between Mills Avenue and Mt. Baldy Road. The expansions will house an estimated 360 parking spaces, according to the report.

The expense covers the cost of the environmental analysis, the construction of both parking lots, the restroom at the south lot, the parking meters, as well as signage and marketing necessary to make the meter system implementation as smooth as possible, according to Colin Tudor assistant to the city manager.

Mr. Tudor stated that only $150,000 of the million-dollar figure is currently accounted for, funded by a grant from the Los Angeles County Regional Park and Open Space District. The remaining amount will be loaned from the city’s general fund and eventually repaid by money acquired from the lots’ new parking meters and the park’s annual passes.

“It’s anticipated that the funds will be repaid to the general fund within the next 5 years based on $3 per day per car fee,” Mr. Tudor explained, adding that another source of revenue has not been identified, if the city council does not approve the meters.

Staff is proposing to charge only non-residents for use of the parking lots. Claremont residents will be issued parking passes free of charge.

The revenue projections were based on a week-long survey conducted on resident and non-resident use of the park, according to the report. The report found that non-resident use of the park ranged from 74 to 88 percent.

Resident Dean McHenry voiced concerns over charging non-residents to visit the lots while allowing residents to get by without a fee.

“We are discriminating against people who come to our city from outside, and that is simply unacceptable,” Mr. McHenry said. “We are always wanting them to come into Claremont to buy our products and that sort of thing, but for some reason we’re going to discriminate against them in the fees that we charge them in this parking lot. I really think there are major problems with that issue.”

Others are pleased to have some sort of solution to the parking problem.

“This is a welcome attempt to concentrate this issue into some sort of organized matter that will stop our life from being a life similar to living in the parking lot of Walmart,” said Avi Hershkovitz, a homeowner near the park. “This [parking issue] has a history of 4 years, and something should be done.”

—Beth Hartnett

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