I was treated Monday to a sight that isn’t nearly common enough these days: people taking a conflict and turning it into a dialogue, looking for compromise and cooperation.
Officers of the Friends of Marion County Lake Association — formed last year in response to discussions about increasing annual rent for trailer spaces at the lake — met with Marion County Commission to discuss updating the rules for trailer court tenants.
As far as the rules recommendations went, they were able to find a lot of common ground with the commission and Park and Lake Superintendent Steve Hudson. I think that is because both sides have the same goal: a safe, clean, pleasant trailer court that is easy to manage.
There wasn’t quite the same agreement when the discussion turned to rent. The association wisely realized rent would need to be a topic of discussion and left a blank in their proposal for the rent amount.
The main point of contention is that the tenants believe covering the county’s costs with extra left over is enough, but the commission wants more revenue to support improvements to the lake, including improving the trailer court.
Rent from the trailers is the most stable revenue the lake has. In a year with blue-green algae keeping people out of the lake, and consequently keeping many of them out of the park, rent from the trailers represented nearly 60 percent of lake revenue.
Tenants spend money in town, and they take more of a long-term interest in the well being of the lake than short-term campers. I will be surprised if they don’t have great turnout this spring when the county tries to set a world record for the number of people toasting marshmallows around a single fire.
With all that in mind, I say this not to diminish the contributions tenants make to the well being of the county lake. But having a trailer at the lake for weekend getaways is a luxury, and in most cases, having a luxury means paying a premium.
The commission would be foolish to raise the rent on the trailer court so high that the trailer court would have significant unfilled spots. However, the fact that it is as full as it is says there is room for some kind of price increase. I don’t know how large of a price increase the trailer court could handle, and I suspect last summer’s problems lowered the ideal price.
Hopefully, the county can find a price that works for everyone, not pushing out any of the good tenants in the trailer court, but also leaving enough extra revenue to reinvest in the lake.
— Adam Stewart