Gardeners at Ashland Creek Park will pay at least $25 more by 2020 for their individual community garden plots as the Parks and Recreation Commission approved  new rates Monday to increase the program’s cost recovery and eventually equalize fees across the gardens when looked at on a cost-per-square-foot basis.

The new fees will incrementally increase the next three years, starting as soon as next year. The goal is to get the fees to 45 cents per square foot by 2020, with a cap of $80 on the 200-square-foot plots and $100 on the 400-square-foot plots.

The commission also voted to adjust the fees for plots at Clay Street Park to 45 cents per square foot, resulting in a cheaper total plot fee. No changes were made to the fees for plots at Scenic and Garden Way parks.

Garden fees were established independently at each garden, staff said, creating a “fee inequity” where a 100-square-foot plot at Clay Street Park had been twice as expensive as a 120-square-foot-plot at Ashland Creek Park.

“The way it was before, nothing was consistent from one garden to another,” Parks Director Michael Black said at the commission meeting Monday night.

In addition, the established fees did not fairly address the inequality for amenities that benefits gardeners at the gardens, Nature Center Coordinator Jen Aguayo said.

“The one about Clay Street plots … is that they are being overcharged for a long time,” she told the commission. “(Gardeners) have to work so much harder than anyone else. … There are just a bunch of things they have to deal with that makes it overpriced.”

According to staff report, Ashland Creek Park has the most amenities, including parking areas, a storage shed, individual water spigots, picnic tables, a gopher barrier, bathrooms, and green debris removal. Plots in Scenic and Garden Way Park have four amenities, while Clay Street Park only has a storage shed and green debris removal, making it difficult for gardeners to grow their plants.

Aguayo, after testing 45 different models, recommended the commission pass a model that would establish a base fee for the amenities available, then add on the additional fees based on the plot size.

The model would bring the program cost recovery from 18 percent to between 21 and 24 percent, increase Ashland Creek Park plots’ fees between 26 to 81 percent, and reduce Clay Street Park plots’ fees roughly in half, according to the staff report.

Black brought up a point, which several commissioners agreed with, that plots in different gardens shouldn’t be charged differently because they’re all “desirable land within the city limits.”

“In some ways, the square footage model might be the best model,” Commissioner Rick Landt said. “We should do something that is not equitable to begin with, but over time will move toward that equity.”

The commission ended up passing on that model to incrementally increase fees at Ashland Creek Park and leave the other fees as they are. The model will bring the program’s cost recovery to 24 percent. Commissioner Jim Lewis abstained from voting, citing conflict of interest.

At Ashland Creek Park, the 120-square-foot plots — which used to cost $29 — will reach $54 per plot by 2020. The 200-square-foot plots will increase by $10 each year until the plots reach their cap at $80. The biggest lots at 400 square foot will cost $8.30 more next year, $16.60 in 2019, then cost a total of $100 in 2020.

Clay Street Park's 48-square-foot plots will now cost $21.60 instead of $29. The 100-square-foot plot fee will be reduced from $58 to $45.

Plots at Scenic Park and Garden Way Park remain at $29 per plot.

— Reach Ashland Daily Tidings Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.