The delayed opening of the Boise River floating season this summer left a dent in Ada County’s budget, a fiscal impact that’s worth more than just a blow to recreation on hot summer days.
Ada County Parks and Waterways made $155,000 to $160,000 this summer in revenue from tube and raft rentals at its concessionaire at Barber Park, along with related parking and shuttle fees. That’s according to new numbers from the county after those services closed for the season this week. The services opened July 29, the latest start ever, due to the unusually severe flooding this spring and summer.
In the summer of 2016, when the Barber Park services were open by June 29, they brought in about $255,000 for the county. In the summer of 2015, river floating meant $265,000 in revenue for the county parks budget.
On top of the lost dollars, Ada County faces roughly $300,000 in unanticipated expenses from flood damage along its parts of the Greenbelt, said Scott Koberg, Ada County Parks and Waterways director.
The county budgeted for $400,000 in revenue for this fiscal year (FY 2018). Compared to past years, it’s now roughly $100,000 short.
“We do rely heavily on that revenue from float season,” Koberg said. “It’s a big part of the revenue for the year.”
This year the Parks budget actually calls for spending $3.5 million. But about $2.7 million is dedicated money for a big project: repairs and upgrades to the Penitentiary Canal segment of the Greenbelt. The path from the Barber Pool Conservation Area to Diversion Dam includes deterioriated asphalt and steep slopes that drop to the river on one side, and an open canal on the other.
“It’s dangerous there,” Koberg said about the terrain.
How will the county deal with the shortage? It’ll rely on about $500,000 squirreled away for other projects that could now be put on hold. That sum comes from summers when Parks made more money than expected.
And that will somewhat hamper the Penitentiary Canal project. Some of that $500,000 was meant to be routed to the path repairs and upgrades.
“It’s going to be quite a push to do as much as we can,” Koberg said about the Greenbelt section.
River floaters still definitely turned out to make the best of the 38-day season. Tube and raft rentals and shuttle services produced the highest average daily gross revenue on record, Ada County spokeswoman Kate McGwire said.
During the Labor Day closing weekend, from Saturday to Monday, the county collected its third highest three-day revenue on record — surpassed by only the Fourth of July weekends in 2015 and 2016.