Gov To Allow Some Privatization In NJ Parks (VIDEO)
Gov. Chris Christie is announcing a long-term funding strategy for New Jersey's parks that includes leasing golf courses, privatizing concessions and allowing solar installations but keeps state park land under state control.
An administration official told The Associated Press about the sustainable funding ahead of Wednesday's announcement. The official spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to upstage the event.
Christie is speaking at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, where some concessions will be turned over to private vendors. "The key to keeping these entities open and viable for our residents today and for future generations is to keep them attractive as destinations and capable of generating self-sustaining revenue," Christie said. "Our strategy will enhance the offerings at our parks by expanding services and amenities, resulting in an improved, sustainable visitor experience."
Christie said the public-private partnerships will allow state parks to continue to be accessible and state-owned without raising entry fees.
Fees for other amenities like boat storage and group camping, as well as concession prices, will rise.
The Environmental Protection Department hopes to generate 38 percent of the park system's operating budget within four years. The yearly parks budget is $39 million. Just $8 million -- or about 21 percent -- is collected from fees and leases.
The Sierra Club's Jeff Tittel complained that the Christie administration is taking too many liberties with state parks. He said state park staff has been cut by more than half, to 400 employees, since 1995, and the parks budget has been cut by nearly a third since Christie took office.