Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has proposed privatizing campgrounds on national land, a suggestion that is already receiving backlash from some outdoor enthusiasts. "I think if it were privatized, it would probably become like Disneyland," Shannon Jester, who "spends about six months every year in a tent," told Utah's KOB 4.
Zinke told members of the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association last week that "as the secretary, I don't want to be in the business of running campgrounds. My folks will never be as good as you are." The proposal to privatize campgrounds is part of Zinke's goal to alleviate an $11 billion backlog of maintenance projects, UtahPolicy.com reports.
"We'll be looking at where our employees should be spending their time," Zinke added. "Yes, cleaning the bathrooms. But actually running services, that's something we should be pushing to somebody who's updated and knows the market better."
Campers expressed concern about prices going up if parks are privatized, with Jester noting that private campgrounds cost around twice the price as national parks. Fees for camping on federal lands currently range from about $7 to $50, KOB 4 reports. "Anything that makes visiting our national parks more expensive is not good for America and the American people. Camping on national public lands is and must continue to be an affordable family vacation," Aaron Weiss of the Center for Western Priorities told the Sante Fe New Mexican.
In 2016, America's 331 million park visits generated more than $18 billion.