The following frequently asked questions are intended to provide the public with information
about the park host program. Please email [email protected] if you have any questions
about this information.
- Which PenMet Parks properties currently have park hosts?
Currently, volunteer park hosts are at three PenMet Parks’ properties: Fox Island Fishing Pier, Peninsula Gardens, and the DeMolay Sandspit. There was a park host at Sehmel Homestead Park, but that was discontinued several years ago after a camera surveillance system was installed at that property.
- When will the park host program end?
The program will sunset on October 1, 2021. Prior to that date, PenMet Parks will develop and implement a plan to maintain or enhance the level of service provided to the public at those locations.
- Why didn’t the Board of Park Commissioners vote at a public meeting on whether or not to sunset the park host program?
The park host program was developed administratively and for that reason the decision to sunset the program was done administratively.
- What activities do park hosts conduct at Fox Island Fishing Pier, Peninsula Gardens, and the DeMolay Sandspit?
When they are on site, park hosts are expected to perform limited activities such as opening park gates at 7 a.m. and closing gates at dusk. Park hosts also may perform other tasks to assist with operations, such as litter patrol and light cleaning of the restrooms at the Fox Island Fishing Pier and Peninsula Gardens, however Pen Met Parks staff are responsible for custodial duties. Park hosts do not maintain a constant site presence – they may have full time jobs conducted off‐site, take vacations and have the routine events that take them away from the parks. Park hosts are not responsible for and do not perform landscape or maintenance tasks. Park hosts do not enforce park regulations or prevent prohibited activities. Park hosts are not security guards.
- How are park hosts selected?
When the District began offering park host opportunities, it solicited applications from the public and generally a park host volunteered for a limited duration, usually a period of several months or less. Regularly rotating park hosts and an open application process ensured the program was accessible to anyone wishing to participate. Current park hosts have remained at their locations for a number of years, which effectively removed the park host opportunities for other members of the public.
- How much do park hosts pay to camp on public land? How much are they paid for the services they provide?
Park hosts do not pay to camp on public land. The District provides to the park hosts all of their utilities, including power, water, septic, high speed internet and cable television.
- Wouldn’t the program provide more public benefit if park hosts paid market rate rent for their camp sites?
If the program were to continue, an open public application process with reasonable limits of stay would need to be re‐integrated to provide the public with equitable access to apply and serve as a park host. Managing the application process and program would create some administrative burden, the cost of which could potentially be offset by charging market‐rate rent. However, private citizens occupying public land for any length of time impacts the community’s ability to enjoy full access to these properties. PenMet Parks staff would still be required to perform the duties and responsibilities necessary to maintain and operate the properties. A campsite rental program is not currently being considered and would require more evaluation.
- Why is the program ending?
PenMet Parks continually adapts to meet the needs of the changing population it serves. The District is accountable to its citizens for its use of public property and public dollars, and thus continually evaluates programs and services to ensure its limited park, recreation and financial resources are used wisely. PenMet Parks recently reviewed a number of its programs, including the park host program, and determined it is no longer the most effective method to assist with operating those District assets. In recent years we have experienced property damage, safety concerns, management issues, and unauthorized storage of personal property at properties with park hosts. Some of the park hosts’ decisions and interaction with the public have not met PenMet Parks’ expectations for customer service. Park hosts alone are not satisfactorily addressing property management concerns such as inconsistent closing times, parking management, off‐leash dogs, removal of items from beaches, violations of park regulations, trespassing, overflowing trash cans, and other similar issues. An increased staff presence will maintain or enhance the level of service provided to all community members.
- Won’t it cost taxpayers more if the park host program sunsets?
PenMet Parks employees will need to be paid to open and close the gates. When the park host program concludes, PenMet Parks staff will be fairly compensated for performing opening and closing duties at Fox Island Fishing Pier and the DeMolay Sandspit (Peninsula Gardens is presently vacant and gates are only opened upon request). Although the District will now incur a cost to have an employee open and close the gates, that employee will have the added responsibility of inspecting the park to determine if there are any conditions that require attention, including maintenance and repair issues, but importantly also any public safety issues. The park hosts do not perform those inspections and are neither trained nor qualified to do so. During a recent inspection, we discovered pest infestations, safety issues, and property damage at several of the properties despite the presence of the park hosts. These problems become very costly to later repair or remedy during which time they present an added risk to the public. Going forward, the employee can identify these issues and perform or contract for the performance of any work necessary to correct the problem or make the park safe. PenMet Parks employees are responsible for operating and maintaining properties consistently across the District’s comprehensive park system. The increased oversight resulting from professional staff visiting each property daily will maintain or enhance the level of service provided to the public. Employees can professionally address maintenance, safety, and other property issues to avoid costly repairs. Professional staff are trained to provide customer service and to make decisions that reduce the risk of liability for the District. The savings realized by these measures, as well as park host utility cost savings, outweigh the anticipated increase in staff costs.
- How will the properties be operated and maintained after the program sunsets?
PenMet Parks staff and contractors currently perform landscape, grounds, most custodial, and maintenance work at all District properties. That practice will continue after the park host program sunsets. The level of service provided at Fox Island Fishing Pier, Peninsula Gardens, and the DeMolay Sandspit will be maintained or enhanced as the park host program ends. PenMet Parks staff will perform opening and closing duties, and their increased presence at each property will allow more efficient and effective completion of professional maintenance and operation duties. PenMet Parks is providing a full‐time person on site at the DeMolay Sandspit through Labor Day 2021 to educate visitors on park regulations and mitigate issues that are occurring despite the presence of a park host, such as parking, trespassing, off‐leash dogs, removing items from the beach, litter pick up, and other similar actions.
- How will security be handled after the program sunsets?
The vast majority of PenMet properties do not have on site park hosts. Most properties are ungated. PenMet Parks has implemented appropriate security measures at each of its properties to provide a safe user environment and to discourage property theft or destruction. Just like the rest of the properties in our comprehensive park system, we will take appropriate actions to ensure Fox Island Fishing Pier, Peninsula Gardens, and the DeMolay Sandspit each continue to have security measures in place. Consistent with current operations, Fox Island Fishing Pier, Peninsula Gardens, and the DeMolay Sandspit will all remain gated and closed outside of normal park hours from 7 a.m. to dusk. To further enhance security at those properties, PenMet Parks is installing security surveillance cameras. As always, PenMet Parks encourages everyone to contact the appropriate government agency in the case of an emergency.
- What do I do if there is an emergency, violation of park regulations, or some other
If you see something, say something. All visitors are encouraged to contact the appropriate government agency in case of an emergency or other situation at any PenMet Parks property.
PenMet Park regulations apply to all visitors and activities. PenMet Parks staff are trained to educate visitors on park regulations, but they are not law enforcement. Below are the relevant emergency contact numbers:
– Fire or police emergency: 911
– Non‐emergent violation of park regulation or other non‐emergency ‐ Pierce County Sheriff’s Department: 253‐287‐4455
– Illegal poaching – Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: 877‐933‐9847
– PenMet Parks: 253‐858‐3400
- What do I do if there is an issue at a property after the program sunsets?
Please contact PenMet Parks at 253‐858‐3400. We are committed to enhancing the quality of life by providing parks and recreation opportunities for our community, and we look forward to hearing from you.