Should a Parks Department Charge Fees for Walk-A-Thons? has partnered with LexisNexis to bring you this content.

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Maryland Gazette
September 4, 2013
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Trail fees anger nonprofits;
CROP Walk participants must pay county $2 to walk for hunger relief
KATE YOON [email protected]

When the organizers of the annual walk-a-thons tally up the results of their annual benefits for hunger relief in north county, they expect to come up a few hundred dollars short.

On Sept. 29 the North Anne Arundel County CROP Hunger Walk will be the first in which each person who takes the two, four or six-mile stroll on the Baltimore Annapolis Trail will be charged $2 by the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks.

"It has all of us upset," said Kathy Barnes, an organizer from Linthicum Heights United Methodist Church. "They're taking profits away from people who are giving. They're thinking their giving will go to people who need it."

The county created the fee last year, but granted waivers because it was approved without enough time for organizers to adjust. Starting this month, no exceptions are being made.

Recreation and Parks spokesman Colleen Joseph said the county isn't just "picking on the trail." There are several different fees for different uses, she said, including a $3 per person fee implemented this spring for all participants in youth sports leagues.

The county charges a flat fee based on the projected number of participants in special events or fundraisers in all county parks and trails. After the event, the county collects $2 per person who actually attended.

Paul Shaffer, chairman of the event and a member of Glen Burnie United Methodist Church, said the event already pays $75 for a parade permit and park use permit. The additional fee will be "really killer" and will come out of the participating churches' pockets, Shaffer said.

About 10 churches host the North Anne Arundel County CROP Walk that raises funds to raise awareness about hunger. Shaffer said the event typically raises $10,000 to $13,000 each year.

The fundraiser has been held since 1995, one of three CROP Walks in the county. The others also have to pay the fee.

"We're trying to help the county out; it's for citizens of the county," said Sally Vavrek, organizer of the Severna Park CROP Walk. "I think it's a pretty awful back-door way of taking money away from us."

Twenty-five percent of profits raised by walkers' pledges are donated to the North County Emergency Outreach Network, a food pantry in Glen Burnie. The rest of the profits go to Church World Service, an international nonprofit that sponsors the walk.

Shaffer said NEON gets around $3,000 each year.

"We just use (the trail) for three hours on one Sunday a year," Shaffer said.

Usually around 100 people participate, which would mean about $200 taken from profits, not including the permit fees. Barnes said several months of emailing county officials asking for a waiver have failed.

"We're very disappointed that we're walking to raise hunger awareness, for NEON, to help our citizens of north county, and they're hitting us with these fees," Shaffer said.

Other nonprofits that use the trail are charged the fee as well.

Tom DeKornfeld, vice president of the Annapolis Striders, said his group adjusted its fees for races on county trails accordingly. The fee for racers is still fairly low, he said.

The money was likely used for maintenance and improving the parks, so it "seems fair" that it comes from users, DeKornfeld said.

DeKornfeld said the county met with the Annapolis Striders last year to warn them about the fee.

"We're probably bigger users of the trail than other organizations. Some races have been going on for 30 years," DeKornfeld said. "I presume that's why they told us. So we wouldn't be shocked and can plan for it."

The $75 permit fee is paid for by Shaffer's church, but it also have to will cover the $2 per person fee unless other participating churches volunteer. Next year, all churches will have to give a donation based on the number of participants from its congregations.

September 4, 2013

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