Monday, August 22, 2011

Rye Town Park - Leave “The Beach” Alone!

If you’ve noticed a lot of people walking around town this summer with peculiar stripes of pale skin circling their wrists, it’s not because of some strange new fashion craze or the arrival of a new UFO convention at the Hilton Rye Town, formerly known as the Rye Town Hilton, which is totally different.

No, the un-tanned wrists are a product of the new entrance policy instituted this year at Rye Town Park—or is it Park Rye Town—also known by folks around here as simply “The Beach”.  Mostly because that’s what it is...the beach.

You know, water, sand, sun, blankets, umbrellas…that sort of thing.

There’s also a very nice substantial grassy area outside the beach, where park users, adverse to sand can set up a picnic, toss a ball around or just sit in the shade of a round leafy tree and read a book. 

“The Beach” is our own personal, precious jewel tucked away on a beautiful stretch of Long Island Sound.  I’ve been to almost all the beaches up and down the sound shore—excepting the private clubs which have my photo posted and refuse to let me in—and I can’t think of one that’s any prettier than our little beach, with its jetty—also known as “The Rocks” as in “Stay off of”— slicing down the middle...

and that little nugget of art deco eccentricity, known as Playland, off to the side.  

It’s as Americana as anything we’ve got around these parts.  It’s certainly defined my summers through the years, and I’m sure yours as well.

The staff—from the fee booth and parking attendants to the security personnel, to the lifeguards—is professional, friendly and polite. The time and temperature are always approximate, never exact, which is just how you like it in your private little Margaritaville. Go with the flow is the order of the day.  It’s “The Beach”; we wouldn’t have it any other way. 

But of course, in reality, to those who have to run the place and decide policy, “The Beach” is a business, even though technically, just like Playland, it’s really more of a public resource, funded with our taxpayer dollars. And every new administration that comes into office is going to redefine and rework it until they can say they were the ones, despite the short sightedness of past administrations, who
turned a losing proposition into a profitable one. 

But does “The Beach” really need to be profitable?  Does it really need to be a political win? Has it ever been?  Will it ever be?

I mean for anyone, other than the guys who run the overpriced restaurant, which happens to have a big fat Rye Town tax exemption, which helps with that whole profitability thing?  But a deals a deal, except of course to the City of Rye who says, hold on there, Johnnie Show me the money as of 2012.  But the Town of Rye, their partners on the Park Commission, disputes this and has filed a grievance on behalf of the restaurant owner. So the whole thing will likely end up in court and who do you think is going to end up paying for that?

But this Commission, whether they sue themselves or not, says, in essence, it’s going to work towards profitability by controlling park losses with a bottom line, business-minded approach.

Sounds good…but does a business minded approach include a system that forces the additional cost of wristbands on its patrons that no one wants to wear on a beach?  But apparently we have to because the Park Commission is essentially saying; “We don’t trust you—any of you—not to cheat us”.

Always good for business….

The penalty for not wearing the wrist band is to have to pay your entrance fee again. But as a permit holder, I don’t pay an entrance fee, anymore—and thanks for that by the way. So if I get caught without a wrist band, I guess I have to not pay again….and again and again. I suppose until I learn my lesson.

Of course, having two workers in place for every job such as fee collecting is practical. At least for the one just sitting there texting.  Having a half dozen or more parking lot attendants standing around on a slow Wednesday afternoon talking about the Yankee game works.

Sending out countless letters in the spring announcing that permit holders can now renew by mail, after two years of having to come to the park office, was a welcome change.  Until someone decided that new pictures were needed for all the permits, so, you guessed it, you still had to go down to the office, even if you mailed in your check.

Creating a differential pricing system, for residents and nonresidents, which I think even the Commission folk have difficulty keeping straight, if you go by their website. Aside from requiring a decoder key to decipher the wheres and whens of who pays what…when and where, the new pricing has only served to keep a lot of hard working nonresident families away who can no longer afford or who are unwilling to pay the increased fees.  The result has been that attendance is down, in general, but weekday attendance, in particular, is way down. However, to offset this, the Commission is spending about $750 to print coupons to provide weekday discounts that will essentially reduce the fees back to where they were in the first place. But you have to be willing to pay the super-sized weekend fees in order to get the weekday only coupon, which is kind of self-defeating.

But, as the Commission says, the attendance is only down because the weathers been either too rainy, too cold, or just too hot. 

So, when in doubt, let’s just blame the weather. And now that I think of it, who wants to go to “The Beach” on a hot sunny summer day?

Not the Rye Town Park Commissioners.  Because if they did actually go to the beach, they would know…nobody wants to wear a silly paper wrist band.

And I haven’t even mentioned the new automated parking and beach access plan that’s being discussed.

Want a bottom line business approach...?

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!

 If the walls are falling down and the doors and windows need painting, fix that. Raise the permit fees, if you have to. Regular beach goers, who appreciate “The Beach” for the commodity that it is won’t object…too much. Its money well spent.  Maybe even use some of the money that you’re not getting from Johnnie or the probable court fees you’re gonna pay.
But leave “The Beach” alone!

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