New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wants contractors to take over concessions and event services at state parks, saying the cash generated by the move can help keep the 50-plus state parks, forests and recreation areas open.
The Daily Journal, Vinland, reported that an environmental group immediately expressed fears the plan could lead to higher fees and restrict public access.
Christie ruled out hikes in admission or entry fees for state residents, though he said new rates for items such as group camping, boat storage and bus passes are likely.
“At a time when most other states are closing down state parks to save money or significantly increase entry fees, our administration is committed to keep all the state parks accessible for everyone to enjoy them,” he said Wednesday (Nov. 2) during a news conference here at Liberty State Park. “Entrance fees will not change. If people can’t afford to come there, it doesn’t matter whether you keep the parks open or not.”
Island Beach State Park in Ocean County and Wharton State Forest in Atlantic, Burlington and Camden counties also are in line to have snack stands and other services go under private control shortly, with other sites being added in the future, state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said.
No contracts have been awarded.
The cost of operating the parks is about $39 million annually but the system generates $8 million through fees and leases, or 21 percent of the total operating cost, Martin said.
“It’s been a struggle to maintain these parks, keep them open and keep them running,” Martin said.