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Author Topic: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?  (Read 2484 times)

Camper054

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Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« on: October 11, 2019, 09:47:53 PM »
Hi all,

I just got this in my news feed...

https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/465416-committee-pushes-national-park-service-to-privatize-camp-grounds

I am scared  - what do you all think?

SeilerBird

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2019, 09:59:31 PM »
Quote
...the U.S. park service faces a $12 billion maintenance backlog.

They could take the 12 billion out of the defense budget.

Arch Hoagland

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2019, 10:13:19 PM »
I've got a $10 bill that says no one on the committee ever camped a day in their life.
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Isaac-1

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2019, 11:39:16 PM »
Given the cost of everything else associated with visiting a national park, the current campground rates are trivial, what is not trivial is trying to get a reservation.  If privatizing would mean updating the campgrounds, trimming trees lining the camping loops, and maybe even include adding more campgrounds, I would be all for it.
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lynnmor

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2019, 12:50:20 AM »
Keep in mind that federal employees are an expense till the day they die with their pensions and benefits.  Private companies might just be what is needed to reduce the never ending expenses.

SeilerBird

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2019, 05:34:12 AM »
Given the cost of everything else associated with visiting a national park, the current campground rates are trivial, what is not trivial is trying to get a reservation.  If privatizing would mean updating the campgrounds, trimming trees lining the camping loops, and maybe even include adding more campgrounds, I would be all for it.
Adding more campgrounds in a National Park is almost impossible considering the current rules and regulations of the park service. It is even tough to trim trees in one.

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2019, 06:26:58 AM »
This is a policy I recall from Michigan.. Michigan passed a balanced budget bill so our Then Govermanure sold off some state land and most importantly the state health lab, Lock Stock and patents.. One of which is the flu vaccine.

So he balanced the budget.. one year... at the cost of all following years.

Many National park campgrounds (Example Grand Canyon) are already privatized.
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Old_Crow

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2019, 06:58:50 AM »
Since I work for a concessionaire that manages campgrounds for the Forest Service, the TVA, and some state parks, I was kinda okay with parts of the article...until they got to the part about limiting use of the senior pass on some dates.
I tend to use the heck out of my senior pass when we aren't working, and I don't like the idea of them adding limits all of a sudden.
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DouglasB12

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2019, 07:32:49 AM »
Any time an idea like this comes up, the idea is to take a national resource and transfer as much money from it into the hands of a private business.  These are *national* (or state) parks that are meant to be available for ALL Amerincans - not to be used as a means to extract as much money as possible from campers and place in the hands of private individuals.

HARD PASS on the idea of privatizing!!!!

Back2PA

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #9 on: October 12, 2019, 07:39:42 AM »
Any time an idea like this comes up, the idea is to take a national resource and transfer as much money from it into the hands of a private business.  These are *national* (or state) parks that are meant to be available for ALL Amerincans - not to be used as a means to extract as much money as possible from campers and place in the hands of private individuals.

HARD PASS on the idea of privatizing!!!!

Agree completely. This is a matter of priorities - there seems to be unlimited money for some things in the federal budget, but replacing a rotted park bench is presented as a budget crisis.
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Dragginourbedaround

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #10 on: October 12, 2019, 07:56:17 AM »
I've got a $10 bill that says no one on the committee ever camped a day in their life.
I'll take that bet.
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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #11 on: October 12, 2019, 08:13:16 AM »
I have mixed emotions on this subject, but fear mostly dominates the potential benefits.  Without some specific proposal as to how this might work while still protecting the park resources and public access, it's hard to guess whether this might be a boon or a disaster.

There aren't many actual federal employees cleaning park toilets, though.  Many parks now operate with contract staff, either part time help or with the entire park run by a concessionaire. They still have to follow federal & state policies, though, and nothing changes much.

The Senior discount is a terrific perq for seniors but probably un-affordable to the parks.   If we can afford to buy recreational vehicles, it's hard to claim that we seniors couldn't afford to use the parks without a huge discount.   I think it is unconscionable for seniors to complain about the lack of services and improvements in parks, yet insist that their 50% discount is inviolable.    Seniors ought to be willing to pony up more to support parks, maybe reducing the discount to 20% on camping fees and keeping the 50% only for general admission fees.    But then I look at the tax give-aways for the super-wealthy and wonder why seniors can't get some extra breaks too
« Last Edit: October 12, 2019, 08:16:35 AM by Gary RV_Wizard »
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ChasA

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #12 on: October 12, 2019, 08:18:03 AM »
Time for another tax cut for the 1%. That'll fix it.
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UTTransplant

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #13 on: October 12, 2019, 10:08:17 AM »
The Senior discount is a terrific perq for seniors but probably un-affordable to the parks.   If we can afford to buy recreational vehicles, it's hard to claim that we seniors couldn't afford to use the parks without a huge discount.   I think it is unconscionable for seniors to complain about the lack of services and improvements in parks, yet insist that their 50% discount is inviolable.    Seniors ought to be willing to pony up more to support parks, maybe reducing the discount to 20% on camping fees and keeping the 50% only for general admission fees.    But then I look at the tax give-aways for the super-wealthy and wonder why seniors can't get some extra breaks too
I bolded the part of your comment I feel strongly about Gary. If we didnít have a senior pass, we would buy an annual entry pass for $80 a year, just like we did for the numerous years we were under 62. If we didnít have a discount on camping inside the park, we would pay the (still inexpensive) fee to camp. But I have an acquaintance who went nuts and threatened a reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune who wrote about getting rid of the discount. He was virulent enough that he got a police visit. This guy has a decent retirement income and travels both domestically and internationally plus has some expensive hobbies. But ask him to pay the same fee a family with kids has to pay? Heresy!

What we do is drop a $10 or $20 bill in the donation box at the park visitor center in each park we visit. It goes directly to the park, no middle men. Not as much as an entry fee, but it doesnít take staff to collect it either.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2019, 11:33:36 AM by UTTransplant »
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muskoka guy

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2019, 10:23:14 AM »
We swung south through Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont on our way back to Ontario from visiting NFLD and the east coast of Canada. We went to Acadia NP near Bar Harbour Maine, and paid $32 for a week day pass to the park. Continuing east, we decided to stop at Mount Washington National Forest in New Hampshire. Upon arrival we are told our US national park pass is no good there, as it is a private venue that runs it. They wanted almost $60 dollar US to drive up the mountain to the scenic look out. If this is what privatization looks like, I suggest you wont save any money in the long run. All it would do is pad the pockets of private companies, and make your public lands more unaffordable to lower income families. We always buy a national park pass for the US and Canada every year. 

Pugapooh

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #15 on: October 12, 2019, 12:51:21 PM »
I've never stayed in a national park and doubt I will get the chance. 

Privatize?  Who in the one percent will own it?  Sounds like it will make the rich richer.  Yes,federal employees will have benefits after they retire.  Not a problem to me.  I think people should be able to retire before they die.  Private Employers seem to dump their older employees before they have to pay any retirement. 

50% off is a very generous discount.imo.  Seems fair that the prime camping season cost the same for everybody.

Just my thoughts.
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irishtom29

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #16 on: October 12, 2019, 03:58:56 PM »
I despise the notion of a business running a public park which should exist for the common good, not as a means to feed our money to a capitalist. And this privatization means many people will have less access rather than more  to things to which they've a right to benefit.

As is common those who will benefit by privatization try to convince us that what's good for us is really bad for us and what's good for them is good for us.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2019, 04:06:35 PM by irishtom29 »

taoshum

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #17 on: October 12, 2019, 05:03:46 PM »
There are some things that don't need to run the "privatization" gauntlet.  The NPs are already commercialized to an almost Disneyland level... a major draw for tourists... I don't know where the limits lie but we now avoid some NPs because of the crowds or go at low season times... usually when it gets cold.  Yosemite, Yellowstone, Arches, Zion and the GC are too much these days.  Nonetheless, if you go to the "back country" in the NPs, there's not many humans.
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SeilerBird

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #18 on: October 12, 2019, 05:22:55 PM »
Yosemite is almost 1200 square miles yet 99% of the tourists spend their entire time in the 7 square miles of the valley.

muskoka guy

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #19 on: October 12, 2019, 06:30:10 PM »
Its funny how during the depression, they managed to find money to build huge projects like Hoover Dam, Grand Coulee Dam, Golden Gate Bridge etc,etc. etc. Now they cant find enough money to run a campground that is half run by volunteers, {or should be}. I think someone has their hand in the cookie jar.

NY_Dutch

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #20 on: October 12, 2019, 07:55:40 PM »
Two of our favorite campgrounds are concessionaire operated in National Forests and both are very well run with updated facilities and good maintenance. The Senior Access Pass rates can be a little confusing though, since only the base rate is discounted, not the extra charges for full hookups, etc. That still puts both of them at about $22/night for full hookups though. Not bad for central Florida in the peak winter season and Asheville, NC in the spring.
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Larry N.

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #21 on: October 13, 2019, 05:29:39 AM »
Quote
Continuing east, we decided to stop at Mount Washington National Forest in New Hampshire. Upon arrival we are told our US national park pass is no good there, as it is a private venue that runs it.

We found a similar thing at Mt. Rushmore. The parking concession didn't recognize the geezer card, so you have to pay a (then) $10 parking fee. Since the only way to get in there is through the concession folks' gate...
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Dragginourbedaround

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #22 on: October 13, 2019, 07:45:31 AM »
We found a similar thing at Mt. Rushmore. The parking concession didn't recognize the geezer card, so you have to pay a (then) $10 parking fee. Since the only way to get in there is through the concession folks' gate...
Cost us $11 at Mt Rushmore. They didn't recognize the Senior Pass at Prince William National Forest Park in Triangle, VA.

If you look at who is on the committee you will find people with an interest in privatizing the National Parks (like a past executive of KOA). I don't think they should be on that committee.
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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #23 on: October 13, 2019, 08:41:44 AM »
Quote
We found a similar thing at Mt. Rushmore. The parking concession didn't recognize the geezer card, so you have to pay a (then) $10 parking fee. Since the only way to get in there is through the concession folks' gate...
I was appalled by that when we visited, but subsequent research made me realize I was wrong to be angry.   There is no other place to park the humongous crowds that show up at Rushmore most every day.  That's why you cannot get in without paying the parking garage fee - there aren't other places where you could avoid using the garage and people were jamming the roads with parked cars.     Might be different if you could fold up your F350 and put in your pocket, but until that day...   

A parking garage was the only practical solution to the need for parking but the NPS didn't have the funds to build one, so they contracted it out as a concession. The concessionaire built the garage and got an exclusive contract to operate it at the NPS-approved fee scale until they recovered costs and made some profit.  Now the garage operation contract is bid out like any other federal service and Xanterra holds the contract.  BTW, seniors now get a 50% discount at the Rushmore garage.

The real issue here is lack of funding for all the federal recreation lands.  People quickly get up in arms at the mere mention of losing their senior discount, but where are they when it comes to appropriations for park improvements and operation?
https://www.mtrushmorenationalmemorial.com/parking
« Last Edit: October 13, 2019, 08:44:14 AM by Gary RV_Wizard »
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SeilerBird

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #24 on: October 13, 2019, 08:51:32 AM »
Let's lay the body in the place it belongs, Washington. Someone is cutting NP funding by 14% in 2020. But the wall will be built. So do you want immigrants or senior discounts?

PancakeBill

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #25 on: October 13, 2019, 09:31:56 AM »
Build the wall.

When talking privatizing in this article, it is really just the campgrounds.  I lived in YNP for 10 years, campgrounds need updating. Privatizing can fix that.  The concessions are under requirements to update, look at what Xanterra agreed to in getting the Yellowstone contract for hotels.  Lots of upgrades, look at Fishing Bridge CG and a 2 year closure to rebuild it.  That would not have happened if it were under NPS.  The NPS funds go for roads and other infrastructure. 

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NY_Dutch

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #26 on: October 13, 2019, 09:47:59 AM »
This country was built by immigrants. I'll take legal immigrants over a non-functional wall any day. 30 foot wall, 32 foot ladder, game over...
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PancakeBill

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #27 on: October 13, 2019, 09:51:55 AM »
Legal is the key word.
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LarsMac

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #28 on: October 13, 2019, 01:57:54 PM »
I can see some privatization working if it is done right. I believe that it should be localized - meaning each park is individually negotiated, giving preference to local Vendor/operators, with some fairly strict rules, and supervised by the NPS. No nationwide contracts to big vendors/operators.

I'd like to see the idea simmer for a while, and maybe wait for an administration change before taking the idea too far. 
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muskoka guy

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #29 on: October 13, 2019, 10:40:32 PM »
A mere 12 billion needed? Maybe give Bill Gates and his buddies a call. A drop in the bucket for them. Its a great way for some mega billionaire to become a national hero.

Camper054

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #30 on: October 25, 2019, 04:08:36 PM »
A mere 12 billion needed? Maybe give Bill Gates and his buddies a call. A drop in the bucket for them. Its a great way for some mega billionaire to become a national hero.

Agreed!

Some of these mega billionaires do give lots of money to charities and other welfare, child education, fights against life threatening diseases, etc., which is great and nice of them.

Why not some to our National Parks?  I do not want to start listing the reasons, there are too many!

Thanks all for your thoughts, comments....all the best to all of you...

John From Detroit

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #31 on: October 25, 2019, 04:25:09 PM »
Quote
...the U.S. park service faces a $12 billion maintenance backlog.
How many Million has they handed, tax free. to Billionaire industrialists to encourage them to "invest in America" only to have 'em fly off to Panama or the Islands or some other tax shelter and we never get a dime back?

On the other hand if they increased the Food Stamp budget by oh say 20 billion. they would get the 20  billion back and 16 more on top of it so they could fund the park service and have 4 billion left.

But Food Stamps are a waste of taxpayer money.
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Back2PA

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #32 on: October 25, 2019, 05:14:29 PM »
How many Million has they handed, tax free. to Billionaire industrialists to encourage them to "invest in America" only to have 'em fly off to Panama or the Islands or some other tax shelter and we never get a dime back?

A partial list with their effective tax rate:

Amazon -1%, Delta Airlines -4%, Chevron -4%, General Motors -2%, Occidental Petroleum -1%, Honeywell -1%, FirstEnergy -1%, Prudential Finance -24%, Xcel Energy -2%, Devon Energy -1%, DTW Energy -1%, Halliburton -2%, Netflix -3%, Whirlpool -10%, Eli Lilly -9%, Goodyear -3%, Penske Automotive -3%, Aramark -15%, etc etc

These companies, plus a couple others, blew a $20B hole in the budget last year, enough to pay the entire U.S. Park Service maintenance backlog with $8B leftover.

This isn't about raising user fees or reducing the senior discount.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2019, 06:34:01 PM by Back2PA »
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SeilerBird

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #33 on: October 25, 2019, 05:26:25 PM »
Of the 12 billion dollars that the park service needs only a few billion are for the campgrounds. The lions share is for improving roads, visitors centers, trails, and signs. And right now the parks are highly dependent on volunteer labor. They should be paid.

Camper054

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #34 on: October 26, 2019, 01:01:49 PM »
Of the 12 billion dollars that the park service needs only a few billion are for the campgrounds. The lions share is for improving roads, visitors centers, trails, and signs. And right now the parks are highly dependent on volunteer labor. They should be paid.

Totally agree (I'm sure others as well) '...parks are highly dependent on volunteer labor.  They should be paid.'  Couple of times we camped this year - tent (before we bought our pop up) and after, I have really good experience and help from the camp hosts/camp folks.  One time, we arrived late at Shenandoah NP and the camp store was closed and we did not have any firewood on us.  We thought the store would be open, but unfortunately it closed just before we arrived.  The host told us we could pick up what we can find on the ground and burn them, but it had been raining and everything was wet.  She realized it and then brought us some firewood from her stock!  Very recently, at Brown County state park (Nashville, IN), our power source was mistakenly taken by another camper.  Ater calling the camp folks, one guy came and helped us sort it out.  He was very courteous and did the talking with the neighbor camper that they should be using another power source.  I am sure many of you had similar experience!

MN Blue Skies

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #35 on: October 27, 2019, 12:23:34 AM »
How would privatization effect the Ranger programs and all the education that is provided by the Parks?
 
« Last Edit: October 27, 2019, 12:25:46 AM by MN Blue Skies »
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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #36 on: October 27, 2019, 07:50:21 AM »
Interpretation Rangers will still be there, the privatization would only affect the campgrounds which Rangers don't work in anyway.  Hopefully, the bidding for this would include requirements to update the areas.  Some are fine, some are not.  Look what Xanterra is doing at Fishing Bridge CG in Yellowstone, it was built in the 50's with 50's camp trailers in mind, over the years camp trailers and motorhomes got bigger.  Ideas on CG's have changed.  It was so outmoded, they had to close the CG for 2 years, demolish the entire CG and start from scratch with infrastructure.  I look forward to their new opening, I am sure the price will be higher, but even that part is regulated, and the price was already high for what you got.  Now there will be better sites for a better value. 

As to the programs, these are run from interpretation, based out of visitor centers.  This portion would remain the same.

I worked for 10 years in the visitor center at Old Faithful along side the Interp folks.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2019, 07:51:59 AM by PancakeBill »
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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #37 on: October 27, 2019, 11:28:58 AM »
My Golden Age Passport cost $50.00.  That was the annual cost of a pass at the time, about 15 years ago.  So if I purchased one every year since, at $50.00, I'd have paid $750.  But the current cost is $80.00.  So maybe my actual costs for the past 15 years would have been closer to $1,000.  Sounds to me like one hell of a bargain.  In fact, I've thought many times as I've pulled my card from my wallet that this can't last forever.  We prefer public parks to private parks and resorts and probably stay at public parks when not boon docking 90% of the time.  So in addition to the $750+ I've saved on park admissions, I've saved a fair amount on camping fees.  On average we're probably on the road 3 months a year.  For 15 years, that's maybe 1,350 days.  If we camped half the time at national parks, Corp parks, Forest Service Campgrounds, etc., we'd have saved conservatively maybe $8-9,000.  That's 50% off, an average campground fee of $25.00 a night for 675 nights.  So I don't have any issues with paying more.  I don't like to pay more than I have to for anything.  But let's be honest.  There's no better deal anywhere.  In fact, if the average under age 62 camper had any idea of how much we save, I think they'd be less than sympathetic to our concern.   So maybe it's time to bite the bullet and not push back when the guys who do the budget try to keep things going with a business model that would have bankrupt ANY other enterprise many years ago. 

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Isaac-1

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #38 on: October 27, 2019, 04:53:33 PM »
Part of the problem I see is the push back against any form of update and modernization one sees at any national Park.  You have groups that actively want to discourage people from visiting national parks, groups that are against enlarging parking lots, having cell phone coverage, widening roads, etc. as that might encourage more people to visit.

In the last couple of weeks I have visited multiple national parks, and stayed in concessionaire operated campgrounds in two locations.  Wahweap campground on Lake Powell (Glen Canyon National Recreation area), and Mather Campground at Grand Canyon, I also visited Petrified Forest National Park, which has no campgrounds.

Both these campgrounds are managed by 3rd party companies, and each has a very different feel.  Mather Campground you would never guess a 3rd party company was involved, though with Wahweap, things felt much more commercial, check in was by a store clerk wearing a logo sports shirt at a desk inside the camp store, which was filled with trinkets, t-shirts, etc. though also well stocked with food items.  By comparison Mather, had the more traditional walk up window check in, with either a ranger or someone dressed similar to a ranger doing the check in.

This is just to say that there is a range of styles out there, and which one works best, may depend on the setting.
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Dragginourbedaround

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Re: Privatize National Parks campgrounds?
« Reply #39 on: October 28, 2019, 09:59:43 AM »
Quote
My Golden Age Passport cost $50.00. That was the annual cost of a pass at the time, about 15 years ago.
I paid $20 for my Senior Pass about ten years ago. When they announced they were raising the cost to $80, we bought one for $20 for my wife in case I lost mine.
Gene

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