NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Lease State Parks

May 20, 2011

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 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, says Harris Kenny, a policy analyst at Reason 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.  For example, 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.
  • The companies collect park user fees to fund their operations, maintenance and labor costs.
  • And they pay a set percentage of revenue back to the state as an annual lease payment.
  • This offers the opportunity to minimize, or potentially eliminate, taxpayer subsidies to the parks, while keeping them open for public enjoyment.

Source: Harris Kenny, "Don't Close State Parks; Lease Them," Orange County Register, May 13, 2011.

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