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Wesley Township – Township Board charging for use of public park – Violation of State Law

Will Co. (ECWd) –

Let’s consider this a class in Township Government for dummies.

The Township Code on Parks is found at this link.  It’s a really large law that contains a whopping 4 sections.

We suggest reading laws from the top down.  In some cases, like this one, the answer to a violation can be found in the first sentence in section (a) of the very first statute on Township Parks.

(60 ILCS 1/120-5)
    Sec. 120-5. Power to acquire parkland; inapplicable to church.
    (a) A township, acting through the township board, may acquire lands (not exceeding for anyone park 25 acres in extent, unless received as a gift) to be set apart and forever held and maintained and improved as public parks for the free use of the public.

Township Law for Dummies:

“for the free use of the public”

When the law says the public park is for the free use of the public, most understand the meaning of the word FREE!

  • Free does not mean you can charge for use of a porta-john.
  • Free does not mean you can charge more for more people using the porta-john.
  • Free does not mean you can charge to use the boat ramp.
  • Free does not mean you can charge to rent the whole park to residents.
  • Free does not mean you can charge to rent the whole park to non-residents.
  • Free does not mean you can charge to rent the pavilion to residents.
  • Free does not mean you can charge to rent the pavilion to non-residents.
  • Free does not mean you can restrict others use of it by renting it to others.

Free means there is no cost to use it!

At this point, those who will try to justify their actions of charging fees in contradiction to the law will claim they have to fund the park.  We agree they need to provide a funding mechanism for the maintenance and upkeep of the park.  That brings us to the question of how to fund it.

The law is very clear on that point as well and it does not provide the charging of fees for such maintenance and upkeep.

(60 ILCS 1/120-20)
    Sec. 120-20. Park maintenance tax.
    (a) To provide a fund for the maintenance of parks, the township board may levy annual taxes not exceeding 0.02% (or the rate limit in effect on July 1, 1967, whichever is greater) of the value of the property in the township in any one year, as equalized or assessed by the Department of Revenue. The tax shall be levied and collected at the time and in the manner that other township taxes are required to be levied and collected.

The only place in the Township Code on Parks that permits any kind of fees is found in the section related to Golf Courses.  Since this is not a golf course that section does not apply but for the sake of educating, below is the section on fees for a Golf Course.

Sec. 120-15(b) If the lands are developed as a golf course, the township board shall charge a fee of those using the golf course and its facilities. The fee shall be at a rate sufficient to pay for the maintenance, depreciation, and operating costs relating to the golf course. (Source: P.A. 85-1209; 88-62.)

Now that “most’ understand this fact, the rental policy needs to be used as a fire starter for the campfire all the citizens need to have while they enjoy the free use of the park.

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