Visitors to two popular Lacombe County boat launches and a beach will have to pay for parking and launching beginning May 1.
The fees will apply to Sandy Point Beach and Sandy Point Boat Launch on the west side of Gull Lake and Sunbreaker Cove Boat Launch at the north end of Sylvan Lake.
County peace officers and commissionaires will patrol the sites and will inform people about the new fees and, if necessary, issue violation tags.
Parking at Sandy Point Beach will cost $3 per hour or $15 per day. At Sandy Point and Sunbreaker Cove boat launches, the fee will be $20 a day to launch and park, $10 for launch only and $10 for an additional vehicle with no trailer. The fees can be paid through the HotSpot Parking App.
Lacombe County manager Tim Timmons acknowledged not all will be happy with the new fees.
“We understand some of our residents were concerned with the paid parking program,” said Timmons in a statement accompanying the fee notice. “Council reviewed the plan and, except for adding an annual pass option for frequent users, they continue to feel it is the right direction to move in.
“The additional user fees will help to ensure the operating and capital expenses of these amenities are more sustainable. With the increasing amount of people accessing the lake via the beach and boat launches, the paid parking program will assist with the maintenance and upkeep of these facilities, while providing funds for future needs.”
For regular users of the boat launches or beach, the county has an annual fee available. The yearly rate for Sandy Point Beach is $120, Sandy Point and Sunbreaker Cove boat launches and parking is $160 and Sandy Point and Sunbreaker Cove launching only permit is $80.
“We know this will be an adjustment,” said county Reeve Barb Shepherd. “However, Council believes that adopting a user-pay system for these facilities is the most responsible way to help offset the county’s cost of operating them.
“We are pleased to offer access to Gull Lake and Sylvan Lake through these facilities. The paid parking system will ensure these amenities can be maintained and used to their full potential for residents and visitors alike.”
Sandy Point Beach and boat launch were required as part of the approval for the nearby residential development, with the added provision that they be public facilities. The cost of the washrooms is split between the developer and county.
Once completed, the facilities were turned over to the county to operate and maintain. A maintenance shop was built, parking expanded, and additional playground equipment and swimming buoys added. Two county maintenance employees oversee the facilities and on long weekends commissionaires are contracted to provide parking and traffic control.
The annual cost of operating and maintaining the beach and boat launches is now $135,000, which does not include future road paving costs and the cost of replacing and repairing equipment and facilities over time, says the county. All of the money generated from the new fees will go to cover the current and future costs.
Find more details about the Paid Parking Program, including frequently asked questions and how-to videos, go to lacombecounty.com and click on “Explore and Play”.