Is Park Privatization Dead?
"The park system is rich in recreational, natural, and historic resources and has the potential to be one of the finest county park systems in the country. It also has tremendous potential to generate revenue from its assets to help with renovation of facilities and development of recreational programs".
That’s what was written by a consulting firm nearly three years ago as the County sought ways to better run its park system, a system that contains about 12k acres. We wrote a Brief in 2008 about the County’s efforts to turn to the private sector to improve operations and maintenance. Some of the parks’ capital improvements had been deferred for close to two decades.
So the news today that the County is going to seek an additional $1.25 million in Regional Asset District funding to "…deal with our deferred maintenance" as the County Parks Director put it, raises some confusion. Does that mean that there is no private sector interest in shoring up park assets or taking over operations on certain amenities? Or were there offers on the table that were not enticing enough for the County to embrace?
RAD generates about $17 million for the parks now, and with other beneficiaries such as the libraries clamoring for more in the coming year, the time would be opportune for the parks to move more of its funding to the private sector.