As park budgets face cuts, many turning to P3s
by Mary Scott Nabers,
CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
As mayors and city council members approve new budgets that are reduced significantly for the coming year, department directors are finding new and innovative ways to provide services. It is hard to reduce public safety funding and it is difficult to justify cuts in emergency services and street repairs. Retirement benefits are contractual, so most of them cannot be altered. Parks and recreation departments, however, seem to be an easy target for funding cuts. Many park directors are embracing public-private partnerships. Here are some interesting occurrences:
- At the 16th annual Lake Tahoe Summit, officials discussed the role of public-private partnerships (P3s) and the use of P3s to restore the Lake Tahoe area. Local officials are encouraging investment in environmental redevelopment by private sector firms. There have been some significant P3 successes in the past, including the restoration of upper Edgewood Creek, funded by a private sector resorts management company, and the completion of Lakeside Trail, financed by a combination of public and private funds.
- Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway in downtown Boston operates under a combination of public and private funds. Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary Richard Davey hopes this P3 will make the organization entirely self-sufficient by 2018 so public funds can be directed toward state infrastructure projects.
- A series of recreational fountains in Portland, Oregon, have fallen into disrepair and officials are strapped for funds for their upkeep. Local developers, concerned about the state of the parks as well as the surrounding properties, have partnered with the city to generate much-needed funding for these public entities.
- In Hawaii, the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has seen such a large reduction in its working budget that it can no longer manage the lands and facilities it oversees. The DLNR will seek funding from private businesses that will go toward capital improvements to public parks, harbors and other aging facilities.
- The Department of Conservation and Recreation in Massachusetts can no longer maintain all of its properties. The Department hopes to sell some of its public rights to a private entity for Daly Field, a major park in Brighton. This would entail exclusive use during certain hours of the day for the private partner and public use for the remainder of the time.