Thursday, May 06, 2010

Environmental agency, Gov. Christie discuss privatizing N.J. forests, parks

The state Department of Environmental Protection and Gov. Chris Christie’s administration are in discussions about having private vendors, rather than state personnel, manage state forests and parks. "We are barely getting by this year with enough funding to run the parks, so we are looking for ways to ensure that our parks stay open and that all residents of New Jersey have an opportunity to be able to use the parks and recreation sites," said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin today. The Garden State is not the first state to consider the idea, which the DEP stressed was only in the talking stage and part of a larger effort to figure out efficient ways to manage state parks and forests. The DEP also offered no specifics on which, if any, of the 50 state parks and dozens of other forests would be eligible for private management. Several environmentalists said they fear the consequences of privatization, including whether fast-food chains would be allowed. Privatizing public parks and forests is not new. Private firms have managed many federal, county and local lands for years, such as Ocala National Forest in Florida. Vendors charge entrance and other user fees and pay government a percentage as they handle all maintenance and park operations. State parks, however, have been slow to catch on, said Warren Meyer, owner of Recreation Resource Management, an Arizona firm that operates 175 federal, county and local park and forest facilities in 13 states...more

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