HAVERHILL — A proposal to charge an admission fee at Winnekenni Park is off the table, and instead the city is likely to ask visitors for donations.
City Councilor Thomas Sullivan said a council committee reviewing his plan to improve the 700-acre park prefers to ask visitors for donations rather than charging a fee.
“We might decide to install a donation box at the front,” Sullivan said, recounting a variety of ideas for improving the park that came up at a meeting last week. “The people at the meeting aren’t opposed to an admission fee because they can see the value of keeping the park in pristine condition. But we agreed it might be better to keep it voluntary.”
Sullivan has developed a broad plan for restoring and improving the park, which includes miles of multi-use trails, a playground and tennis courts, Plug Pond swimming area and Haverhill’s famous castle on the hill.
In his proposal, Sullivan identified a number of ideas for how to pay for improvements to the park, pond and castle. His ideas included state grants and the admission fee — $5 per season for residents and $10 for others. He suggested stationing someone at the park’s front entrance in the summer months only to collect the fee between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
But after some residents and city officials opposed the admission fee proposal, Sullivan said the council’s Public Property and Natural Resources Committee is considering the donation system. The committee also discussed holding an annual fund-raising event at the park and possibly setting up a system where donations could be collected online, he said.
The city is trying to find money to improve and maintain the park, which is Haverhill’s largest recreational area.
Mayor James Fiorentini said he doesn’t support admission fees at the park either, but that he does support forming a “Friends of Winnekenni Park” group to solicit private donations and hold fundraising events.