Editor’s Note: Joe Elton, president of the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD), spoke with Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM) editor Steve Bibler on July 8 concerning the proposed cooperation between his association and the private campground sector. The following are Elton’s comments on other campground topics.
On the current state park shutdown in Minnesota:
“I think it’s insane. This is about using the things the public loves in a political gambit. The truth is, Minnesota has a great state park system. They were supposed to have a robust visitation over the Fourth of July and rest of the season. It’s a tragedy for citizens who lost the opportunity to connect with nature and for the economy.
On the economic impact of state parks in general:
“These parks generate a huge return on investment. It’s tenfold nationwide, when you consider the 50 state park systems cost less than $2 billion to manage and operate and generate $23 billion in economic impact.”
On the proposed privatization plan for Florida state parks:
“I don’t know enough about it to be able to comment very specifically. Most park systems have had private concessionaires working with them. This proposal in Florida could be a smart thing. Capital expenditure money may be very difficult to get and Florida has robust visitation at its parks. At the end of the day, if the privately managed campgrounds in Florida state parks are delivering a service comparable to what the state is delivering, I don’t think the pubic will care. They care if it doesn’t reach expectations in cleanliness and functionality or has rude staff. We all need to recognize the public wants high standards.
“The downside to concessioning? The private concessionaire has to maintain the facilities. If they take the money out and they don’t make improvements, they are found to be derelict of their contractual obligations and it falls on the state and the taxpayers. It doesn’t have to be that way if you have a good collaborative relationship.”
Note: Since Elton spoke with WCM, the Florida governor has withdrawn his proposal to build an RV park in Honeymoon Lake State Park and has asked for a review of the overall state park privatization plan.