Public Parks Problem, Part 2
I want to keep our loyal readers informed on the latest developments regarding the Saint Louis County park budget issue. David Stokes, a Show-Me Institute policy analyst, gave a great rundown about Saint Louis County officials considering closing some county parks because of budget problems. Apparently, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is offering assistance to the county in managing some parks:
Nixon said that he had offered assistance to [Saint Louis County Executive Charlie] Dooley. In particular, the governor mentioned Lone Elk Park, which is adjacent to Castlewood State Park. Nixon said such a state-county operation there would save money.
Lone Elk Park is adjacent to Castlewood State Park and a previous article states that the county was considering transferring Lone Elk Park to the Missouri Department of Conservation. The governor claims that a shared management operation would save money. I haven’t seen any data to support this claim, but IF it is true, then the idea can be viewed as having some merit.
However, it seems odd that in this article, the topic of privatization was barely mentioned, except in this brief statement:
[Saint Louis County Chief Operating Officer Garry] Earls initially said that some of the parks, including Lone Elk, could be sold. However, Dooley dismissed that possibility at a special budget meeting Tuesday night.
Prudence would suggest that the county not dismiss privatization (or ANY potential solution) out of hand. Shouldn’t the county consider privatization as a possible course of action before sharing park management with the state? If there ARE obstacles to privatization, what are they? The only obstacle I could find is in this piece of information from the Southeast Missourian:
Officials said deed restrictions and covenants would prohibit the sale of most of the parks to private individuals.
However, Lone Elk Park does NOT have a deed restriction on its sale so the above restriction would not be applicable. Are there any other reasons the county would not consider privatization of Lone Elk Park?
As David mentioned in his post, the Reason Foundation has done a good analysis of park privatization, and the conservancy model of non-profit, public-private partnerships operating a park has been tried successfully in Tower Grove Park. County officials have not given a reason why following the Tower Grove example would be a bad idea, and unless there is a deterioration of Tower Grove’s situation, shouldn’t Saint Louis County investigate privatization of Lone Elk Park if a private operator can be found to manage it?