Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Mayor Duffy Wants YOU! to Pay for Suburban Beaches

Although fully surrounded by the Town of Irondequoit, Durand-Eastman Park is technically part of the City of Rochester. It was bequeathed to the city by George Eastman way back when. Back when the City could afford it I suppose. For years, Monroe County has taken care of maintenance at the lush 965-acre park. However, the public has not been allowed (legally) to swim at its 5,000 feet of lakefront. Mayor Duffy is currently seeking to change all that.

The City has taken control of the waterfront, with County Executive Brooks more than happy to part with the land. Duffy wants to reinstate swimming at Durand, with lifeguards, changing facilities, and all that must be included in a legal public swimming area. All this of course, costs money. Lots of money. Money that Monroe County couldn't find in its budget for many years. Money that previous City administrations could not free up in their budgets either. Now all of a sudden, Duffy has found a way to pay for it: raise City property taxes by 2.57%!

I, for one, ain't having it. And there is a very simple reason why other city taxpayers should oppose it as well. It isn't truly part of the City! It's in the suburbs for God's sake. The vast majority of beachgoers will be from Irondequoit, Webster, and Greece - not from the City. While I agree that Durand is a popular swimming spot and that we as a community should try to find a way to pay for improvements there, it should not be placed on the backs of overburdened city taxpayers. I know Duffy won the mayor's race because of support from wealthy suburbanites, but that is no reason to pay for improvements in their community.

Alas, as usual, I have a solution: user fees. If you've ever been to Kershaw Park in the City of Canandaigua, you know what I'm talking about. At Kershaw, all Canandaigua City residents swim for free, all non-City residents must pay an entry fee. It's quite simple really. If Rochester City residents are forced to pay for improvements to Durand, then non-City residents should be forced to pay to use the facility. Who knows, the City may even make a profit over time.

In fact, to ensure that we DO make a profit, I propose that we close bacteria-plagued Ontario Beach to swimming permanently. We can move all of the lifeguards and related equipment that had been there over to Durand. We can build a boardwalk at the shoreline to reinforce that swimming is not allowed. Over time, we could add a large swimming pool at Ontario Beach so that a form of swimming could return. Once again though, I'd suggest charging user fees to non-City residents for that as well. It's absolutely ludicrous that in a fiscal crisis time we're considering paying for beaches in the suburbs - if they won't pay for it, why should we?