The Fullerton Arboretum no longer has free parking for visitors during the week, adding further costs to already lofty campus parking fees and resulting in guest complaints.
ParkMobile, Cal State Fullerton’s mobile payment app for campus parking, spread to the Fullerton Arboretum parking lot at the start of this semester, charging four dollars an hour. (Parking remains free on weekends and Fridays after 5 p.m.) The arboretum is not responsible for the new cost as enforcement falls under CSUF Parking and Transportation services .
The arboretum also does not receive the parking fees that guests pay. Instead, the money from ParkMobile goes into an account that funds maintenance on other parking lots and structures on campus, which includes the arboretum parking lot, said Elissa Thomas, the field operations and transportation demand manager for CSUF Parking and Transportation.
Nika Chavez, a third-year art major and arboretum employee, said the addition of paid parking has also hurt the number of donations they receive.
“It went from like, maybe I collect like 100 plus dollars a day, or something like that. Like sometimes they're bad days, sometimes they're good days. But now it's just like sometimes we just barely get like $30 or nothing,” Chavez said.
Membership fees help support the arboretum and can range anywhere from $59 to $1,000 dollars. On Tuesdays, which are days that only members and CSUF students can enter, members do not receive free parking, said Jewel Rogers, a fourth-year computer and game animation major and arboretum employee.
Both Rogers and Chavez said that they would have to pay to park in the arboretum lot during their shifts.
Since 1976, the Fullerton Arboretum had been run by the Fullerton Arboretum Authority. This was an agreement between the city of Fullerton and the Cal State University Trustees to grant the Arboretum Authority use of university-owned land as an arboretum. The Authority ended Dec. 3, 2020, which placed the arboretum back into the hands of the CSU, as they no longer receive funding from the city of Fullerton.
Since the addition of paid parking, arboretum visitors have had multiple issues with the ParkMobile app. There is a clipboard the staff keep at the front entry where they record all the complaints they receive. Staff have written almost 40 different user complaints from Aug. 22 to Sept. 13. The first day ParkMobile was implemented at the arboretum, the staff noted that 11 people left the arboretum because of parking issues.
Complaints listed on the clipboard included lack of accessibility for elderly guests and non-English speakers, app malfunctions, and payment methods being rejected by the ParkMobile app.
“There’s a grandmother with her grandchildren that come by every week,” Rogers said. “When it started, I helped her set up the app. And now she’s like, well, I guess we’ll just go to the waterfront and back.”
Chavez said that some visitors were aggressive towards the staff about the change in parking even though parking is out of their control.
Fullerton Arboretum director, Gregory Dyment, said paid parking will help boost business at the arboretum.
“I think people will start to get used to the idea that they can come here and be sure to get a spot. Yeah, and it is gonna cost them four dollars an hour. But where else can you go in Orange County?”
Rogers, who works on weekdays at the arboretum, said she has noticed a change in visitors since the arrival of ParkMobile.
“The paid parking lot, from what we were told, was to prevent students from parking there, which I can get, but during the weekdays, the parking lot is so dead anyway, that I don't feel like it matters. But I have noticed a decline in visitors at the arboretum,” Rogers said.
Dyment said he also noticed a decline in visitors after the parking change. In an email to the Daily Titan, he said, “Perhaps the reason for fewer visitors is that visitors must pay to park if they come here in a car.”