Privatization of New Jersey State Parks Proposed
A New Jersey lawmaker has suggested allowing private companies to operate state parks in order to save the state money.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski believes it’s a way to keep open some state parks slated to close this summer under Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s austere budget, according to The Associated Press.
Facing a multibillion-dollar shortfall, the state has proposed closing nine parks and reducing services at three others. Eighty park workers would lose their jobs.
It is estimated that the closings would save the state about $4.5 million. About 2 million people last year visited the parks targeted to close.
Wisniewski said the state should request proposals from private campground operators and companies that run recreation sites to get a better sense of whether public-private partnerships could work.
“They would be responsible for the upkeep, for taking the trash out, but then we take those costs off our books, and the people of the state could still use those natural areas,” said Wisniewski, D-Middlesex.
He did not rule out raising user fees at the parks. The Department of Environmental Protection has said it is reluctant to raise fees from camping or swimming at state parks because the biggest users are low- and moderate-income residents.
“I don’t see there’s any harm in trying this,” Wisniewski said of his privatization proposal.
The parks would close July 1, the height of the busy summer season.
The state’s environmental community has vowed to fight the cuts.