Len Gilroy of the Reason Foundation has a good overview of the benefits of using private companies to help manage public recreation.
For cash-strapped states, concessions offer the opportunity to turn money-losing parks into revenue generating assets that can be leveraged to help keep other parks open and thriving. And the idea seems right at home in Virginia, a state that has for decades embraced the concept of public-private partnerships and privatization to deliver new highway capacity, mental health facilities, prisons and other vital public infrastructure.
It’s for all of these reasons that parks concessions seem like a no-brainer to consider as a viable and positive alternative to budget cuts, park closures, tax hikes and other sub-optimal policy choices. Even if policymakers believe that it is a core function of government to provide public recreation land and facilities, it does not then follow that government has to be the one to operate those facilities. The federal public land authorities have realized this, and it’s time for states to follow suit.