Thursday, February 10, 2011

Parks Management Innovations

We have called for the American River Parkway to be managed by a nonprofit, and we support the Ose Proposal for privatizing Gibson Ranch.

This article from the California Chamber proposes these types of strategies and other innovative ideas for the struggling California State Parks.

An excerpt.

“February 7, 2011) The prospect of California State Park closures is again in the news as the State of California deals with its continuing budget crisis. There are, however, private alternatives that should be considered before closing the parks.

“Increased public funding of the parks just isn’t an option. The failure of Proposition 21 last November made that clear. By soundly defeating the proposition, voters declared their opposition to increasing taxes to maintain state parks as they are today. Countless surveys and actual park use demonstrate that while Californians love their state parks, they also want them managed within available resources.

“The State of California has exhausted the governmental solutions to the dilemma. And so, California State Parks have no alternatives other than to close parks or find non-governmental funding solutions to sustain them.

“In the past, privately funded solutions have been dismissed out of hand. Today, however, no solution that would keep our state park system viable should be discarded. So, let’s consider these alternatives:

“Private Sector Alternatives

“• Close Some State Parks. As a park professional, it is difficult for me to even mouth the obvious, but some parks don’t belong in the state park system. Most of these are among the smallest of our parks and lack any semblance of statewide historical, natural, cultural, recreational or economic significance. They often were added in response to political influence, when funding was more available or when state government was on an acquisition spree.

“California needs an independent task force (similar to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission) to assess which parks should be retained and which should be buttoned up and maintained until times are better.

“The task force might also recommend which parks are likely candidates for adoption by non-profits, local park districts or other sympathetic entities that are able to operate and maintain them. Potential savings from this assessment could be substantial.

“• Private Management. Many parks could be packaged on a regional basis for private-sector management, while others have sufficient real or potential revenues to be managed on their own. Private enterprise has shown it can accrue operating savings on an average of 30 percent better than government while managing park facilities comparably.

“Under this scenario, supervision and protection (public safety, natural resource protection, etc.) of the parks would remain under the direction of a California State Parks superintendent. Depending upon need and appropriateness, functions like maintenance, janitorial, fee collection, interpretation, and limited and contracted security could be assumed by private contractors. These functions represent the lion’s share of the overall costs to keep parks open.

“There is significant precedent for this type of arrangement across the country. The savings (both human and financial) could be substantial and could support and manage more effectively parks still directly operated by the California State Parks.”