Quiring says fees don’t keep ‘those people’ out of parks

Councilor Eileen Quiring

Councilor Eileen Quiring

Clark County Councilor Eileen Quiring said that a $3 parking fee won’t keep prostitutes and drug dealers out of the county’s regional parks and there’s polling to prove it.

Quiring, who is also the Republican candidate for council chair, made her remarks during Tuesday’s council hearing that included an item regarding automated parking-fee stations at Frenchman’s Bar, Lewisville and Vancouver Lake parks.

The item essentially made an accounting correction to redesignate money for the machines from non-capital to a capital source. It also authorized funding for another parking station at Salmon Creek Park. Quiring was the only member of the council to vote against it.

But the conversation turned from the innocuous matter of accounting and automation to a long-running debate over park access that’s made its way into the race for Clark County council chair.

In 2013, the then-county commission removed the $3 parking fee at its four regional parks. Opponents of the fee, notably former county Councilors David Madore and Tom Mielke (who have since left office), argued that residents had already paid for the parks. In 2016, the county council reinstated the fees.

During the primary election held earlier this month, Quiring attacked current council Chair Marc Boldt, an independent, for voting to reinstate the fees. Boldt, who didn’t advance out of the primary, argued that the fees keep out people who damage the parks or use them as a place to party, an argument he repeated as the conversation turned to the fraught topic.

“We had some pushback from a few citizens but it was overwhelmingly accepted by the vast majority of people,” said parks manager Bill Bjerke of the reinstatement of the fees.

He said that when the fees weren’t in place, the parks were used for less-savory activity such as drug deals and prostitution. Having the fees in place made the parks more family-friendly he said.

“So it’s interesting because I know of polling that says the exact opposite,” said Quiring. She didn’t give details about the poll and expressed skepticism that the fees kept out prostitutes and drug dealers.

“You think a $3-parking fee keeps those people out of parks?” she said. “I don’t think so. I don’t think so.”

Bjerke responded that he heard from his maintenance staff that the fees had made a difference in the demographic that visits the parks.

“I don’t know the poll that was taken but this is coming from my folks,” he said.

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