Pay to play in Arroyo Seco?

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These guys — Dave Sams, director of golf operations at Brookside, and Bob Baderian, executive director of the First Tee Pasadena, the great golf-and-study-hall nonprofit — probably won’t ever have to pay to play in the Arroyo Seco. They work there.

But Thursday morning a group of consultants brought in by the city of Pasadena from the Urban Land Institute held a meeting in the Brookside clubhouse with interested Arroyo activists and neighbors, and, after several days of study, one of the notions they floated was the possibility of getting some cash flow out of one of the Southland’s premiere recreation areas by beginning to charge for parking.

Monetizing the Arroyo, in other words.

Now, before we go nuts here, I need to emphasize that this is just an idea. One that I’m not quite sure how I feel about, as someone who has lived on one edge, then the other, of the fabulous canyon that runs through the city’s west side since 1971. Pay parking has a way of creating those mixed feelings.

But one way to look at it is that we the taxpayers of Pasadena pay lots to keep up this playground of runners, cyclists, hikers, dog walkers, picnic-ers, golfers, Frisbee fliers, radio-controlled aircraft pilots and more …

People pay to park most everywhere else. And as smart city planners note, there is no such thing as “free” parking anyway, anymore than there is a free lunch. Someone paid for that parking place and its upkeep and the roads you took to get there and the congestion to which you added.

One part of the notion is to have a permit for city residents at let’s say $10 a year; non-residents might pay, say, $75. Cheap for what you get: One of the great places to recreate in the world.

Lots more expensive than “free,” though. And speaking as a guy who declines to pay for the stupid Adventure Pass in the forest because we already pay taxes for the forest, well, you’re speaking to someone conflicted about this idea.

More in my column posted online tonight and in Friday’s paper-paper.

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