Every winter for the past 25 years, the city has decorated Honor Heights Park with hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights and, starting after Thanksgiving, the cars line up to go through and look at the decorations.
In the past, the tour was free, with donations accepted at the end of the drive.
But this year, the city — at the suggestion of Parks and Recreation Director Mark Wilkerson — will charge $5 per car, even though the attraction has always ended up netting positive cash flow through donations. “Oversize” vehicles will cost $10.
According to one official who asked to not be named, the Garden of Lights generates an average of $1 per car, with some donating more, some not donating at all. Some estimates of revenue collected were as high as $60,000 per season, with more than 300,000 people seeing it. The city published a release on the Garden of Lights yesterday and mentioned the $5 per-car charge, but did not give a reason why the formerly free attraction — paid for with taxpayer dollars — is no longer free for citizens.
Although the event has never lost money, the city’s release stated “Admission fees will help sustain, preserve and grow the Garden of Lights.”
Monday nights will still be free, according to the release.