Proposed California Park Closures

California State Parks is proposing to close 70 mostly smaller parks in an effort to make ends meet on its budget.    The press release and list of parks is here:

NEWS RELEASE – 70 Park Closures -and attachments 5-10-11

Right now, our company and others are looking through the list to see if one or more would make viable candidates for private management.  One lost opportunity here is that the best way to keep these parks open might be to group them in private management contracts with larger parks that are remaining open.  This is what the US Forest Service does at 500 locations in California alone.

Update: An editorial in the Orange County Register writes:

Last year the state closed or deeply reduced services in 150 state parks. The Legislature in March approved $11 million in cuts to state parks in the next fiscal year and $22 million in cuts in future years.

Friday, state parks officials announced the closure of 70 parks from among the 270-park unit system. The department said service reductions at the listed parks will begin this summer, with closures beginning in September and all listed parks closed by July 1, 2012.

With the state’s perpetually tight budget, funding for education, health care and the state’s powerful prison guards union usually get top priority, leaving parks typically out in the cold year after year. The state has let the parks deteriorate to the point that they now need $1 billion in repairs and maintenance, according to the California State Parks Foundation.

…There are private companies out there that will see California’s parks wasting away and envision a way to bring them back to life. Some facilities, like Tecopa Hot Springs County Park in Death Valley, operate under whole-park concession agreements, a remnant of California’s once-innovative past where the state leased some parks to private companies.

Under these lease agreements, recreation companies manage and maintain the parks. The government can set any quality and maintenance standards it desires and hold the private company accountable to them with a performance-based contract.