The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) announced they would have to close at least 35 state-controlled parks due under the proposed Senate budget plan. According to acting secretary, John Quigley, â€œSuch closures would turn away more than 3 million park visitors and eliminate at least $57 million in recreation spending on products and services in communities around the closed parks.â€?
Instead, Pennsylvania should consider privatization of state parks. Similar proposals exist in Michigan and Washington State. Pennsylvania currently maintains and operates 117 parks across the state. Not only will privatization reduce taxpayer spending, but privatizing Pennsylvania’s state parks will provide a windfall profit from their lease or sale. The local communities will also benefit from property taxes on the newly privatized land.
Patrick Henderson, director of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, has also proposed increasing the amount of state park land open for natural gas drilling. In 2008, Pennsylvania received $190 million in leasing fees on 74,000 acres of state land. Governor Rendell’s proposed severance tax only anticipated drawing $106 million during the next fiscal year, without accounting for the companies that will leave the state due to higher-than-expected costs.