By R.C. Seely

PRIVATIZATION… IT’S A WORD THAT MANY find down-right ominous, much of these sentiments have to do with the perception from the industrial revolution-a time supposedly rampant with corporate greed and corruption. The common consensus is that when corporations are free to do as they please their hunger for profit outweighs all else, we advocates of the free market know better. One area that even free market champions do get wrong is when it comes to privatization of parks. The mere suggestion makes them nervous. Are their concerns legitimate?

Many parks are already private or at least partially private. This includes ones of the most centrally planned states in the country, New York. And this private/public effort was pushed by their own Napoleon-Michael Bloomberg, no less. The effort is called PlaNYC and was introduced in 2007, but the financial problems of New York started in the 1970s and something had to be done.

The City Journal.org covers this:

“In 1980, landscape designer Elizabeth Barlow Rogers and others founded the Central Park Conservancy, whose original purpose was to raise money, stop the park’s decline and restore several of its major landmarks. The city eventually gave the Conservancy the lion’s share of the day-to-day control of the park.

About 85 percent of the Conservancy’s annual budget comes from private donations, mostly from people who live within a ten-minute walk of the park.”

This is not the first time such public/private partnerships have been implemented in New York, in the early 1980s, Bryant Park was another necessity for privitization. With an ill concieved design, the park had many hidden locations making it perfect for criminals. It was reported to have 500 felonies commited per year. Then It was closed and remodeled thanks to this partnership.

New York at least recognized the need for this move, according to parkprivatization.com,  California wavered:

“Due to the state budget crisis, (in 2011) California State Parks has been forced to cut millions of dollars from it’s operating budgets. To make ends meet, California has proposed closing 70 state parks.

‘It doesn’t have to be this way’ says Warren Meyer, president of… Recreation Resource Management (RRM), a 10M company that manages public parks throughout the U.S.

‘With a public-private partnership model used by the US Forest Service (USFS) for thirty years in hundreds of California parks and campgrounds, the government retains ownership of the land and control of the use and character of the park, while handing over operational tasks that are time, money and labor intensive to a more cost-effective private company.'”

California is not alone in its reluctance to relinquish even a little bit of control to save its parks, Arizona has been downright hostile towards the idea of public-private partnerships and would rather let the parks go to ruin.

Out of desperation the totalitarians of the Big Apple had to acquiesce for the good of their beloved parks, but that’s just an isolated area and couldn’t possibly work across the rest of the nation-could it?  Eventually greed would cause those private landowners to develop and destroy the land. They have no incentive to protect the areas for everyone else’s enjoyment, right? Actually, they do have a big incentive and act on it, according to Alyssa Ravasio co-founder of HipCamp. HipCamp is a website that is like an Air BnB for nature lovers, listing camp sites that both public interests and private landowners offer for patrons.

In an interview for Entrepreneur magazine Alyssa discusses the lessons she learned when creating HipCamp:

“We started reaching out to private citizens who own tons of land… They don’t want to subdivide, sell or develop their property, but they would like to make money off it, so we partnered with them to create entirely new places for people to get outside-camping, hiking, fishing, you name it. The property owners set a price, which ranges from $10 to $300, and we facilitate the transaction and take a commission.

Website traffic also tells us a lot about where people want to camp, so we can focus on finding private lands in that area… And that’s why out biggest initiative for 2017 is reaching more landowners… [using HipCamp] some ranchers… made more than $40,000 this year.”

 

The private landowners were acting out of self-interest, they desired extra income from land not being used, but what was Alyssa’s purpose? Was she being altruistic, voluntarily giving for others? Nope. She was looking “to spend New Year’s Eve of 2012 somewhere quiet and beautiful… by the ocean.” Her search for the perfect spot to ring in the New Year was time-consuming and left her exhausted, and still didn’t yield the results she wanted. Alyssa came across a need that others didn’t adequately meet and filled it. She saw the need for herself and thought others could use it as well. So she went into fundraising mode and kept steady in her pursuit until it became a profitable business. 

    The business HipCamp did more for more land preservation than the federal landgrabbers have-offering 1,700 private land locations and more than 285,00 listings which includes state and national sites-because it was built around the private landowner’s self-interest to protect and efficiently use their property. As Alyssa put it,”It creates great value for them-and we hope, doubles as conservation effort. When people can make money off open land, there will be more open land for everyone.”

    Along with practical economics, another advantage to such an agreement is that privately operated parks are immune to government shutdowns, since the labor and expenses are covered by a private entity. During the 2013 government shutdown the Forestry Service, under the Obama adminstration, illegally shut down the parks, bringing calls from attorneys. An appropriate action since they broke their end of the contract.

    Once again it appears that government-state as well as federal-has not been the savior for the people against those “big bad greedy capitalists.” Even when the private interests are doing the nation good, they are rarely given their due credit. They’re not pillaging the land but instead perserving it. They are doing what they can to protect from federal incompetence and corruption. They are trying to protect it from government mismanagement and shutdowns. We have more places to go for recreation because of them, not less. And they did it all without having to steal the property from it’s legal landowner. No using legal force, just market incentives. So, welcome to Private Park.

R.C. Seely is the founder of americanuslibertae.com and ALTV, he has also written books about pop culture. He latest is Victims of White Male: How Victim Culture Victimizes Society, is available at Amazon.

 

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