Some are concerned that the proposed privatization of some public park services would drive up costs for visitors and fail to raise enough for repairs
June 25, 2017
America’s national parks need a staggering $11.5bn worth of overdue road and infrastructure repairs. But with the proposed National Park Service budget slashed by almost $400m, the Trump administration says it will turn to privatizing public park services to address those deferred maintenance costs.
“I don’t want to be in the business of running campgrounds,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said at a meeting of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association in Washington this month. This came after Donald Trump proposed cutting the Department of the Interior budget by 13%.
But some public lands advocates are concerned that privatization would drive up costs for visitors and put the egalitarian nature of visiting a park out of reach for some.
The park service did consider privatizing more services during the 1980s and 1990s, says John Garder, director of budget and appropriations of the National Parks Conservation Association. He says what the agency discovered is that, “for most part, you can’t privatize services significantly without having to raise the cost of visitation”.
If you’ve visited a national park, especially a busy one, such as Yosemite or Grand Canyon, there is a good chance you’ve patronized a private operator. Concessionaires operate a range of services including lodging, restaurants and transportation – ferries to Alcatraz and Liberty islands, for example. All told, the NPS has issued private concession contracts at 100 places within the park system.