Some times it really works well, as the new director of county parks notes in this interview with the Sacramento Bee, and following, is our letter to the editor in response, published by the Bee.
An excerpt from the interview.
“Only 34 years old, Jeff Leatherman has been assigned a big responsibility: Running Sacramento County’s Department of Regional Parks, which maintains 15,000 acres.
“Leatherman started in February. In recent years, the department has lost about 33 percent of its funding and 40 percent of its staff….
“How can you sustain the department long-term?
“It’s important for the county to have recreational facilities, and partnerships will be key to maintaining them.
“Privatization and other forms of management have been proposed as options. Former Rep. Doug Ose is leasing Gibson Ranch. Another group proposed taking over the county parks, supported by a tax. What might we see in the future?
“Privatization will be considered when appropriate. Partnerships will be essential. We also have agreements with the American Parkway Partnership, which helps take care of the parkway. The California Youth Soccer Association runs the Cherry Island Soccer Complex. Effie Yeaw Nature Center and MacFarland Ranch are run by organizations.
“The county has been contributing to the long-term maintenance costs of Gibson Ranch. Nevertheless, Ose still lost $35,000 in his first nine months of operation, his annual report says. What does that say about his success?
“Doug estimated that he would lose far more money in his first year. He’s been doing a great job. He’s gotten the crowds back to Gibson Ranch, with a wide range of events, such as Civil War re-enactments, and improvements to the facilities. “
ARPPS letter published in response
Published: Tuesday, Apr. 3, 2012
Re “County parks chief: Partnerships key to sustaining system” (Our Region, April 2)
The privatization of local parks is a necessary strategy in a period of declining public funding available for their support. The ideal situation is for a nonprofit to assume the management, as has been done with Effie Yeaw and McKinley Park Rose Garden & Events. For-profit management is ideal when the right people are involved, as is the case with Doug Ose at Gibson Ranch.
The larger parks, such as the American River Parkway require a more complicated approach. Our organization suggests that the parkway be managed, and conduct fundraising, by a nonprofit organization contracting with a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) of Parkway adjacent governments. Ideally the nonprofit organization would be created by the JPA for that specific purpose and the management would be sought nationally, befitting the national status of the parkway.