A Closer Look at State Park Budgets

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Most state park systems are largely dependent upon general fund appropriations, which are supported by tax dollars, and dedicated funds for operating and capital expenditures. When state budgets are tight these funds are often swept away from parks to help fund other state priorities. The threat of park closures and cuts in park services are a common result.

Park user fees constitute 39 percent of the average state park system budget. These park generated revenues have increased over time but are short of fully funding parks and leaves them susceptible to the waxing and waning of budgets and political management.

Another option is private leasing of public parks. When private managers lease the right to provide recreation they typically pay the government a rental fee for land use, a commission on revenues earned, and pay the management expenses. The lessee must provide the visitor with a valued experience at an affordable price to ensure return visits. Private management of public land units through leasing is proving to be a win–win option.

Originally posted at Environmental Trends.

Holly Fretwell is a Research Fellow at PERC and an adjunct instructor at Montana State University where she has taught  introductory economics, macroeconomics, natural resources and environmental economics. She works with the Foundation for Teaching Economics, giving workshops for  high school teachers to improve their skills in teaching and...
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