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New pilot project sees Drumheller hoodoos visitors pay for parking

Over 200,000 people from around the world made a stop at the hoodoos east of Drumheller, Alta., last year.

The seven-metre tall natural sandstone pillars were a free attraction for tourists, but a new pilot project from the Town of Drumheller is changing that.

“What we’re trying to do with it is try and determine whether or not there was an appetite for a pay-for-parking fee and try to help people understand the services we offer out here at no cost,” said the town’s chief administrative officer, Darryl Drohomerski.

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Visitors are being charged a fee of two dollars to park at the hoodoos site between Thursdays and Sundays.

The pilot project has been ongoing since June and will run until the Labour Day long weekend.

“The hoodoos themselves are under the provincial authority of the [Royal] Tyrrell Museum, but all of the services where you’re parking — where we’re standing right now — is actually all Town of Drumheller services,” Drohomerski said. “We provide all of the services, whether it’s the washrooms that you would use or the asphalt that you park under — our residents pay for those services.”

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According to town officials, the site is in need of upgrades like a parking lot resurfacing and expansion of the washrooms.

The pilot project is meant to explore just how much revenue can be generated by implementing a small fee to park, all in an effort to not raise taxes for the town of 8,000 people.

“[It will] help offset some of the tax costs to our taxpayers by having the people using these services actually pay for the services,” Drohomerski said. “We’re just hoping to see if there’s ways that we can do it without simply going to the taxpayers and asking them to pay for it.”

Town officials said they have received very little negative feedback on the pilot project so far, and that is being echoed by visitors to the park.

Brenden Christensen visited the hoodoos on Thursday with his family and said he is fine with paying the two-dollar fee.

“If they’re going to keep facilities open and keep people coming here, and it is a tourist attraction, I think they need to get something out of it and to keep [the] thing going,” Christensen said. “So I don’t have a problem with it at all actually.”

“I think that’s probably fair,” said Glenn English, who came to the park on Thursday from Red Deer.

Natalie Foidart agreed. She came all the way from Winnipeg to check out the hoodoos and said she didn’t mind the charge to park.

“I don’t have a problem with it at all,” she said. “They probably need to do some maintenance stuff, and pump out the port-o-potties, and need some money to do that.”

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The goal of the project was to generate between $10,000 and $20,000, but with over 5,000 vehicles visiting the hoodoos site over the August long weekend, town officials are confident that goal has been exceeded.

A report on the pilot project is expected to go in front of Drumheller town council at the end of September.

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