Audit: Some Utah state parks may need to be closed

Jan 18 2011 - 11:36pm

SALT LAKE CITY -- Some Utah state parks may need to close, others should offer fewer services during the winter and some could be privatized to save state money, according to a legislative audit released Tuesday.

The audit was ordered by state lawmakers who were looking for ways to make the state park system more efficient.

Only nine of Utah's 43 state parks generate enough revenue to operate without state funding.

The audit says Utah's heritage parks and museums are among the most expensive to operate and tend to have the fewest visitors.

The audit identified five state parks for possible closure or transferring the responsibility of managing them to local governments.

They are the Green River Golf Course, Edge of the Cedars, Territorial Statehouse, Frontier Homestead and Utah Field House Museum.

Those parks required state subsidies of between $8 to $43 per visitor due largely to low visitation numbers.

At Green River Golf Course, 5,500 nine-hole rounds were played during the fiscal year that ended June 30, requiring a $235,000 subsidy.

"The Legislature will need to address the policy question of whether or not the state should continue to subsidize these types of operations at such a high level," auditors wrote.

Golf courses, parks with camping and marinas are also the kind of parks the audit says could be privatized.

The audit says contracting out the state park system for someone else to manage campgrounds, cabins, yurts, visitors and boat slip rentals could result in privatizing the operations of 33 state parks.

However, the audit notes the state would still need to fulfill the same role as traditional landlords, including capital maintenance, contract administration and environmental stewardship.

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