By Susan Tebben
Fellows Riverside Gardens, a popular part of the Mill Creek MetroParks, needs help to keep up its gardens and facilities.
To help with that upkeep, the Mill Creek MetroParks Board of Commissioners has approved the first rental-rate increase in five years, a 20-percent rise in fees and charges that took effect Tuesday.
“But since this is the first one we’ve done since March of 2008, it rounds out to 4 percent per year,” said Arlene Lanz, manager of visitor services for Fellows. “A lot of thought and consideration went into it.”
The prices range based on residency [Mahoning County residents receive a lower rate], time of year, and facility rented.
“We keep the taxpayer in mind,” Lanz said. “We want to give taxpayers in Mahoning County a break because they contribute to the park already” through a countywide tax.
A garden ceremony at the gazebo or Kidston Pavilion — the facilities can be used for commitment ceremonies, vow renewals and memorial services along with weddings, a new policy for the park system — can be rented by a county resident for $180, a jump from $150. Out-of-county residents can have a garden ceremony for $240, up from $200.
Rent for the Rossi Auditorium, which is already booked with events up to November this year, rose from $400 for county residents to $480 for an event happening between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nonresidents will pay $625 instead of $520 that was charged last year. After 5 p.m, rates increase further.
The money goes to the park system’s general fund, which helps keep the buildings in working order and the grounds maintained.
“We need help,” Lanz said. “If you have an evening event, we need to have the appropriate staff, and there are police that are on duty during the event as well. We have to pay for everything that goes into it.”
Still, Lanz said the gardens’ administration studied other botanical gardens and parks, including a park in Wisconsin with comparable amenities. The rates were found to be on par with other parks and affordable compared with other Youngstown sites where weddings take place, Lanza said.
But the popularity of the park’s and gardens’ facilities make Lanza optimistic that events will continue to come to the facilities throughout the year, even in the off season, when rates are cheaper.
“We have a lot of brides that have moved out of town, and they have always said they wanted to have their wedding here,” Lanz said. “We’re so glad to have those people that think of the park that way, and we hope to always have them.”