Are we really going to save money if we close some of our State Parks?

Poway Roger Poway Roger 17 Comments

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http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/opinionla/la-ed-parks-california-closing-20120317,0,4470243.story

I’m a lover of our Parks and it’s not because I’ve been a National and County Park Ranger, but because of how I grew up. My parents, teachers, friends and scout leaders helped in nurturing that love of Parks in me. I will also say that some Parks were created because of political pressure and really shouldn’t be in a Park system (this mainly applies to the National Parks).

But my post here is about the closing of some California State Parks. Politicians say it is needed to save money, but is it really? I think we have to look at the bigger picture. How will it impact the communities that somewhat depend on those Parks? Can we justify saving money in the State Park Budget when we lose tax dollars from purchases made in those nearby communities, as well as possible job losses (not state employees, but in community businesses). We also look at the loss when Parks are closed and they are then vandalized.

We need to look at the whole picture when we consider closing Parks. Saving budget dollars is just a small part. We must look at the actual cost in reduced tax revenue, loss in employment, and vandalism, just to name three issues involved in closures.

So as a fiscal conservative, I urge the state to look at the bigger picture and keep our State Parks open.  In the long run, their closure will end up costing us much more.

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Comments 17

  1. I think the “fiscally conservative argument” you offer, for allowing the parks to remain under state control, isn’t conservative; it’s Keynesianism. It’s basically advocating government-induced economic stimulii.

    Privatizing the state parks (and national parks for that matter) is a much more palatable and profitable approach. You can learn more about it at: http://parkprivatization.com/

    The author of that site (and entrepreneur who runs parks) also operates one of the most thoughtful libertarian blogs: http://www.coyoteblog.com/ and writes a column on Forbes.

    The main argument against park privatization is that park fees will rise. Two comments I’d make on that are:

    1- higher fees are better than closed parks
    2- this just proves that state-run parks are really just a transfer payment program.

    Privatized parks, with deed and lease restrictions, are one way to let free enterprise solve the failed experiment that Keynesian economics gave us.

  2. Brian,

    “The author of that site (and entrepreneur who runs parks)…”

    So a person who runs parks for a living thinks that it is a good idea to privatize parks? Let me wipe the surprised look off of my face before I continue.

    Is this not similar to developers, who are constantly portrayed as “greedy and evil” on this site as well as by a certain Mayoral candidate that you all love, wanting to use public land on which to build private projects?

  3. Yes, we all know that entrepreneurs are evil and never have an interest in providing good services to the public. Right?

  4. Alger, mea maxima culpa.

    I couldn’t find a workable plan from anyone else so I used Warren’s. However, Reason Magazine does a nice job explaining how voluntary charity does a better job, in Central Park, than the government funding does: http://reason.com/blog/2011/09/27/private-park-parts

    Friday, Reason Magazine showed how the process is catching fire here: http://reason.com/archives/2012/03/16/how-budget-cutbacks-are-helping-californ

    Cato offered solutions for these expected problems and criticizes Warren’s ideas (potential for bribery), offering instead deed-restricted sales of public property: http://www.cato.org/pubs/journal/cj1n2-6.html

    Of course, I’m quoting libertarian websites, which have been talking about the failure of public infrastructure since their inception. As it turns out, they were 30-35 years too early in their predictions.

    The liberal governor’s solution is “no more parks”. The author’s “conservative solution” is to argue for public spending as stimulus which, anyone familiar with the “broken window fallacy”, knows that that is not a conservative solution.

    We celebrate Thanksgiving because of the reactive efforts taken by William Bradford, to the failed communal farming ,practiced by the Plymouth Colony. Not until Teddy Roosevelt did we abolish the tenet that property provides order. As expected, it’s failed miserably.

    I enjoy our public lands but I’m not interested in a transfer payment system to fund those who enjoy it more than I do. Disneyland works. Knott’s Berry Farm works. Six Flags works. That model can be applied to our public lands, make access cheaper for all, and, I dare say…. create more jobs.

  5. T.A.,

    Actually I meant quite the opposite. I was trying to point out the hypocrisy of many who want to vilify developers while lauding other forms of private entrepreneurship.

  6. From http://parkprivatization.com “In our company, 100% of the revenues we receive is from visitors, which means that if we don’t run a good operation that is attractive to visitors, we don’t make any money.”
    Which makes sense, but if they are a business, they will want to make money so what do you do if they are losing? Raise the fees and risk of the chance that less visitors come, thus still losing money, or do you shut down, and if so, what happened to the nearby communities that rely on that park to survive?
    It doesn’t matter if the park is operated by a private business or government. If it fails to earn a profit, what do you do? Shut it down and risk hurting the communities that depend on the patrons for revenue? There is much more to the picture.

  7. “Shut it down and risk hurting the communities that depend on the patrons for revenue?”

    Roger, I think you missed the “broken window fallacy” of my comment. You’re still arguing for government-subsidized jobs.

  8. Poway Roger likes his subsidized parks for the same reasons every other subsidy recipient likes his own subsidy.
    #1 He does not have to pay the true market price.
    #2 He enjoys the pleasure of spending OPM (other peoples
    money).

    “Fiscal conservatives” who tout the economic “benefits” of socialist party B are just ideologues who want to preserve yesterday’s liberal advances of socialist party A.

    Poway Roger you do not want free market change because your “world and life view” is intertwined with the statist compulsory market. You are addicted.

  9. Brian, in the libertarian reality that you envision, I agree with you, but in the reality that we live in, government is going to be involved. I don’t see us changing to a libertarian form of government in the foreseeable future with the current makeup of society and that is a reality.

  10. “Brian, in the libertarian reality that you envision”

    What’s this “envisioned reality”? The reality is that it is ALREADY being implemented in New York City. Roger, I have to ask if you’re reading the links I provided.

    “I agree with you, but in the reality that we live in, government is going to be involved.”

    Who said government couldn’t be involved, Roger? I showed you three market-based models, two of which retain public ownership while the third one retains zoning control through deed restrictions

    The only argument you’ve offered for the status quo is a government-subsidized jobs plan. Might I ask if you thought TARP, the looting of General Motors, cash-for-clunkers, and Obama’s stimulus were good ideas? That’s what your argument has been reduced to.

  11. Give me the use of the park land for free — with no property tax — and I flat damn guarantee that I can run ANY park in America for a profit. I will price the “tickets” and control my costs for profit maximization, evil entrepreneur that I am.

    Of course, there may be some reasonable covenants and restrictions the government imposes on my park operation, but — WITHIN REASON — that’s just a good idea for government to do with public assets.

    One thing I will NOT be doing is giving senior citizens in their Winnebagos a $10 LIFETIME park entry pass — a absurdly underpriced pass usable at most if not all federal parks in America.

    Did I mention it’s a LIFETIME pass???

    Like to see a scan of my wife’s lifetime pass? She was STUNNED to find this when visiting a national park.

  12. Richard,

    “Give me the use of the park land for free…”

    I thought you had an issue with government hand-outs.

    How about paying fair market value for the park land and then see if you can “flat damn guarantee that (you) can run ANY park in America for a profit.”

  13. What is the “market rate” of severely restricted land, Alger? Land that you can’d build on, develop or otherwise materially alter its function?.

    But let’s put that matter aside. You calling for the selling of the parks? Works for me! We finally have found something to agree upon!

    My example is a practical alternative to closing the parks. It is NOT my ideal solution, which is indeed the selling off of the parks (with enforceable covenants and restrictions in the deeds).

    But turning the parks over to the private sector to run (including nonprofits such as the Nature Conservancy, or the Sierra Club) is relatively easy to do — selling the land would be much less acceptable to the public, and would take years (if ever), I suspect.

    Leasing the parks to private operators (for zero cost, or for a lease payment — depending on the operators’ response to such an offer — put it up for bid!!!) would save the government deficit operating costs and keep the parks open. I’d LOVE to do it for zero lease cost (who wouldn’t?), but don’t suggest that as the best solution — only a superior solution to closed parks and/or taxpayer-subsidized parks.

    How could liberals oppose that solution?

    Easy — loss of government jobs — the primary concern of the Democratic Party.

  14. “Leasing the parks to private operators (for zero cost, or for a lease payment”

    This is the simplest solution, for today. It works on the 91 Freeway and it can work for the State parks. 70 parks are being shuttered. There is no downside to experimenting there.

    PS: Richard, I’ll go a dollar over your bid of free. (See, it works!)

  15. Richard,

    I don’t remember saying anything about “selling” the park land. You said “use” and I said “pay fair market value.” My point was simply that it is easy (or at least easier) to turn a profit as long the government gives you a subsidy (in your example, free use of public land).

  16. Just to be clear, Alger — you said “paying fair market value for the park land.” I think that’s pretty clearly SELLING (well, BUYING) the park land. Otherwise you would have (well, SHOULD have) said “LEASE (or rent) at market rates the park land.” Or maybe “pay the market value for the USE of the park land.”

    But I get it — you don’t want to sell the park land, even if you say you do. Whatever.

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