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    To keep N.J. parks in funds, Christie will allow some privatization

    The Christie administration has a new funding strategy for New Jersey state parks.

    The parks now generate about $8 million a year from fees and leases. That’s only about a fifth of the cost of operating the system.

    To reduce reliance on taxpayer funds, the state is moving to privatize concessions, lease golf courses, and install solar arrays in some park areas. New Jersey will partner with private companies and nonprofit organizations to provide amenities.

    That will allow the state to keep park admission fees where they are, said Bob Martin, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Resources. Some other fees may go up, he said.

    “For some of the fees like campsites, increasing them by a dollar or a couple of dollars, cabins the same thing, and boat storage. Things like that are nowhere clearly near market rate,” Martin said. “We haven’t changed them in years and years.”

    The plan looks good, according to Dave Pringle of the New Jersey Environmental Federation.

    “For us, the two litmus tests were entrance fees–and those are staying the same–and no naming rights, and that’s not in there.” Pringle said. “It’s appropriate to provide better amenities and concessions for our parks consistent with the mission of those parks.”

    The new strategy is designed to generate 38 percent of the park system’s operating budget within four years.

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