How Does the State Plan to Fund New Jersey Parks?
How do you maintain a statewide network of parks offering low-cost, safe and enjoyable recreational opportunities while operating at an $18 million annual deficit? New Jersey’s answer used to be the General Fund but it shrinks in tough economic times, even before more demands are made on it.
So now we’re working on sustainable funding strategy for Parks: What combination of earnings from new services, small fee increases, and partnerships that bring new expertise will produce enough new revenue to replace one-third of our deficit by 2015?
Some people think we’re talking about selling or giving away parks but our idea is to make enough money from new offerings to keep our Parks affordable for all. At the height of the summer season, you can drive a carload of family or friends into one of our State Parks for less than a movie costs one person. We’d like to charge out-of-state carloads more and we’d like to offer activities and programs that we haven’t had in the past, for a competitive fee.
So we've developed a plan to generate one-third of our operating budget by 2015. There are two elements to our strategy. The first is to continue to expand Parks capabilities while pursuing new revenue opportunities. The second, parallel strategy is to achieve operational excellence by not treating every Park the same: Manage revenue generation, work for continuous improvement and tailor operations to each park’s unique features.
What follows is an explanation of what it takes to run New Jersey’s State Park system and how we’re trying to build in sustainability, for your children and their children.