Two of the most frequent refrains I hear from parks directors in response to private concession management proposals is that 1) Private companies will just jack up fees and 2) quality will suffer.
I found this quote from an article in SFGate about the future of California State Parks interesting:
Camping: If state parks are going to charge so much for camping, raised to $35 this coming summer for most sites, rangers are going to have to provide a stellar experience. That means a guarantee of quiet campgrounds at night, hot showers, and no issues over restroom cleanup and trash pickup. At $35, there’s no more wiggle room. A camp host or ranger will have to be on site to see to this.
Really? Supposedly quality-challenged private operators almost always have 24/7 presence in the campgrounds they operate, and typically empty the trash and clean the bathrooms as often as 4-5 times on a busy weekend day. And, private operators in public parks, such as in the USFS, often do it for as little as $16 a night.
As might be expected, there is absolutely no mention of privatization in the options list discussed. Last summer, our company participated in a panel within California State Parks headed by Ruth Coleman, the state parks director. It was clear that Ms. Coleman was open to new approaches, but her organization was enormously conservative (little-c). In particular, it came through loud and clear that the rank and file would rather see parks closed rather than kept open under private management.