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NJ Sierra Club Speaks Out Against State Park Privatization

Island Beach State Park
photo courtesy islandbeachnj.org

Moves by the Department of Environmental Protection to replace the superintendent of Island Beach State park with an appointee are being viewed by the NJ Sierra Club as the beginnings of a switch to privatization of the states private parks.

NJ Sierra Club president Jeff Tittel says the DEP’s decision to appoint Ray Bukowski, a man with no parks experience, as the superintendent of Island Beach State park in place of Mark Pitchell is a  political move.

“A place like Island Beach which looks like the first one they’re really going to try to privatize they moved out the professional staff who have a lot of years of experience working parks and replaced them with a political appointment.” Says Tittel.

In November Governor Chris Christie called for a plan for state parks to be slowly taken off of state funding through the increase of camping fees and privatizing concessions and services.

Tittel believes that in addition to removing from the enjoyment of nature, privatization will also make it more expensive for the average family to visit state parks.

He says by turning the ownership of a state park to private interest, “the idea then is for this to person to then lease out the park and the different parts of the park to private concessionaires so you would have a prive concessionaire running the swimming program and the lifeguard station at the beach, which means you might have to pay extra after you pay to get into the park.”

Furthermore Tittel thinks that private companies running state parks would also affect accessibility to patrons.

“What happens if they can make more money closing the park to have a wedding or a corporate picnic or taking the picnic area away from the average person.”

Citing an only 30 million needed in tax revenue to operate state parks, while providing 3.9 billion in revenue, Tittel feels that State Parks are worth keeping and can be funded without resorting to privatization.

“There are ways we can get money for parks, we don’t need to end up having golden arches in our parks or end up leasing important parks to a hotel chain.”

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