Auction Off State Parks

John Seiler:

The always incompetent California state government now can’t keep the state parks open. And it can’t keep the closed parks free from looting and vandalism:

“Reporting from Providence Mountains State Recreation Area, Calif. — California parks officials closed a gem of the state park system last spring, sadly shuttering Mitchell Caverns, a natural wonder that for eight decades had drawn visitors to this remote spot in the Mojave Desert.

“Workers hauled away the precious Native American artifacts and historical documents and locked the gates, assuming the area would sit undisturbed until the state could afford to reopen it.

“But several times in the last four months, vandals traveled 16 desolate miles north from Interstate 40 to plunder and damage the park’s isolated structures. Their actions left advocates for the caverns angry at the state and have officials working to improve plans to protect as many as 70 other California parks scheduled to close in July because of budget cuts.

“The worst damage was to the 78-year-old rock-and-mortar visitors center at Mitchell Caverns, the main attraction of the 5,900-acre Providence Mountains State Recreation Area.

“Intruders cut fences, kicked doors off of hinges and shattered windows and display cases. They stole metal signs and survival gear, including hand-held radios, flashlights and binoculars. They also stole diesel-powered generators and ripped out thousands of feet of electrical wire used to illuminate the only natural limestone caverns in the state park system, San Bernardino County sheriff’s investigators said.”

Sell the Parks

The solution is simple: auction the parks. Sell them. Privatize them.

What about the precious artifacts and the rest? Won’t the new owners bulldoze that stuff and put up condos and Walmarts?

No. The new owners would have every reason to keep up the parks — and do so better than the government.

But if that’s a concern, just include in the auction contract a stipulation that the parks remain parks. You even could stipulate that the parks should be kept open for tourists.

Such parks already exist all around the world. For example, Wikipedia includes a list of private parks in South Africa.

There always has been a flaw in the “public parks” idea. Things seemed to go well for decades, through the 1960s. Americans took to their station wagons and traveled across the fruited plain, enjoying the parks.

But then the environmentalists got ahold of the parks and started restricting their use to the Enviro-Elite. There have been battles over the years over whether or not Americans can use their national and state parks, for example for snowmobiling.

But if parks were privatized, these battles would vanish. The park owners would decide who could come in, and at what price. Prices would cover costs. Enough money would be raised properly to care for the parks, and to repair any damage done by the rampaging bipeds with large brains (some of them, anyway).

Garden to Cultivate

A key shift in focus is in how we look at the earth. The enviro-fanatics look on earth with a capital E — Earth — as the goddess Gaia. So we humans aren’t supposed to hurt her. In fact, Gaia would be better off if all the humans went away.

A better way is to look at the entire earth — small e — as a garden that humans cultivate. The idea was put forth about 15 years ago by a great nature write I met, Alston Chase. He wrote about this in “In a Dark Wood: The Fight over Forests and the New Tyranny of Ecology.”

Chase criticizes the “biologism” of the extreme environmentalists, who posit we’re just a part of the ecosystem, instead of its curator.

Now that humans have achieved dominion over the entire planet, to us everything is a garden. There are are good ways to cultivate gardens, and bad ways. We should advance the good ways. Private property does that better than government control.

With California’s government bankrupt because of its incompetent and venal politicians, it’s also time to take back our precious state parks and give the parks to curators who care. Smokey the bear would approve.

Feb. 27, 2012

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