The Washington Park Committee gave preliminary approval to giving a rental rate break to Friends of the Park who donate an average of $5,000 per year.

The donation can be monetary or in quantifiable goods or services for improvement to the Washington parks and recreation system.

Friends of the Park will be entitled to use of the parks and recreation facilities with a 25 percent discount off of the established user fees and charges. The discount also would apply to athletic fields.

The park committee discussed the Friends of the Park rental discount at its May 15 meeting. The committee has been working for several months on the facility rental rules, regulations and updating fees and charges.

Darren Dunkle, parks director, presented several possible options for groups who donate large sums of money or goods.

After some discussion, committee members favored the 25 percent discount on all facilities and fields for those who donate an average of $5,000 per year.

Members discussed up to a 50 percent discount, but allowing a discount that high could potentially keep the parks department from obtaining money needed to keep the facilities and fields maintained.

“This policy is helping people. It’s helping organizations, trying to give people a break,” said Sparky Stuckenschneider, committee member. “They’re going to get something back now.”

Members also discussed only allowing the discount on rental facilities, but not fields.

“I think if we’re going to give a discount, we should give it across the board,” said Tessie Steffens, park board member. “We have people willing to work and put in hours in the fields.”

Steffens said the discount should be fair for everyone and felt it wouldn’t be if athletic fields were separated.

Others agreed and said it was a good idea to give those who help the parks a break.

“We want to give them an opportunity to benefit from helping our parks,” said Debbie Toedebusch, committee president.

Dunkle noted that there are only a handful of Friends of the Park and most are organizations, rather than individuals.

Rates for fields and facilities are inexpensive compared to other cities, he said.

However, some park committee members said athletic groups are being forced to pay fees when other park facilities, like the riverfront trail and skate park are free to use and still have to be maintained.

Facility and rental fees are still being discussed by a subcommittee formed to evaluate and update all fees.

The Friends of the Park discount will be one part of the revenue and pricing policy. Nothing has been finalized and the revenue and pricing policy is still in a draft form.

Once the policies are finalized, they will go to the full park board for its approval, then to city council for final approval.

After the policies have been established and approved, they will be reviewed on an annual basis.