California Seeking Private Operators for Parks
A state oversight board in California on Wednesday (Feb. 1) approved a controversial proposal that could lead to for-profit companies operating in 11 state parks, including six on the North Coast.
Critics fear the action could allow these parks to be taken over by commercial interests or undermine nonprofits that are planning to submit their own bids to run the parks, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reported.
Despite earlier statements to the contrary, state parks officials on Wednesday said they will not seek to turn over the operations of entire parks to concessionaires.
The parks targeted include 4,000-acre Sugarloaf Ridge State Park east of Kenwood and 700-acre Austin Creek State Recreation Area in Guerneville. The state plans to bundle those two with nine other parks in an attempt to make them more financially attractive to bidders.
“We’re not willing to say that we don’t have the authority to enter into an RFP (request for proposal) with a concessionaire to run an entire park. Are we doing it? No,” James Luscutoff, chief of the Concessions, Reservations and Fees Division for state parks said after Wednesday’s hearing at the state Capitol.
The two members of the state’s Public Works Board who were present for Wednesday’s hearing unanimously supported giving the state the authority to seek bids from concessionaires.
Among the possible concessions are operation of campgrounds, restaurants and day-use facilities, said state officials.
Parks representatives also said they are hoping to generate what they called hybrid proposals that would combine private concessionaires and non-profit groups as a way to keep parks open.
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