As of this past week, weekend visitors to Ra'anana's municipal park are no longer required to pay entrance fees to the city's largest park. Environmental organizations, whose efforts brought about the change, consider it a significant triumph. The municipality, however, warns that that the taxpayer will ultimately have to foot the bill.
The municipality decided to open the gates after the Knesset amended the Municipalities Law last month, forbidding local authorities from charging entrance fees at public parks. The driving force behind the amendment was the "green" lobby at the Knesset.
Separate from the lobby's efforts, the High Court of Justice recently reviewed a petition on the matter that the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (IUED) filed two years ago. The court did not forbid the municipality from charging entrance fees, but determined that there was a need to set criteria for charging fees at municipal parks.
The IUED argued that the city council had no right to charge entrance fees from non-residents on weekends, as the city had been doing. The organization alleged that to do so would be to deprive the public of its right to enjoy public resources.
The city, meanwhile, argued that it needed to charge entrance fees to fund the park's maintenance. Otherwise, the city said, the Ra'anana taxpayers would bear the costs.
The City of Ra'anana's legal adviser, attorney Daphna Keinan, said that it was "doubtful whether the city could maintain the park as it had until now. The ban against charging entrance fees will diminish the city's ability to keep the park so uniquely beautiful and well protected."
The IUED and the environmental lobby are now aiming to achieve the same result for municipal beaches and other parks throughout the country.
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