January 27, 2013

Tragedy Of The Cape Commons

The Cape Girardeau County Commission made a smart move last week to maintain the operations of the county park.

The commission voted to establish reservation fees to use park shelters for events. The county was having trouble keeping up with high park clean-up costs, so a nominal $15 daily fee for shelters will go into effect this year. It may seem like a small deed, but the county’s park superintendent estimates fees will cover about 70 percent of annual shelter maintenance costs. Why didn’t they start charging sooner?

Some people may not like the idea of paying to use a public amenity, but everyone can still enter the park free of charge. Imposing a small fee on a special amenity should help remind park users that it does cost a significant amount of money to keep the park beautiful and well-maintained. It also encourages them to book only the shelters that they will use. Groups holding large events often reserve every shelter but use only one or two, preventing others from using the empty ones. (A classic example of the “Tragedy of the Commons.”)

Ultimately, county officials made a smart business decision. Asking shelter users to contribute toward maintenance costs can prevent future needs to increase taxes on county residents, or to cut services.

A project of the


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