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E-M:/ Harding wants State to sell parks

Enviro-Mich message from "Jennifer Tewkesbury" <tewkesburyj@michigan.gov>

Sell parks? Unloading some state parks not palatable, but worth considering
A Lansing State Journal editorial

Russ Harding sure knows how to get folks' attention.

The former director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality recommends the state sell as many as 14 of its state parks.

The immediate, emotional reaction from many Michigan residents is probably: "No way!" A more detached response is: "Let's take a look."

Writing in the current issue of the Michigan Privatization Report, Harding argues that some of our 97 state parks are "not very unique." The state, faced with a structural deficit, would "realize a considerable windfall from the sale of these properties," Harding wrote.

Thousands of campers no doubt have strong feelings about parks on Harding's hit list. He includes: Hoeft State Park on Lake Huron, Interlochen State Park near the famous Interlochen music camp, and Muskallonge Lake State Park on Lake Superior.

Those are gems. It's hard to see a sound rationale for selling those high-quality, public treasures.

Nonetheless, even the Department of Natural Resources acknowledges that a look at the viability of the park system is worthwhile. In fact, reports Gongwer News Service, a citizens committee is studying how to make the park system - which costs $38 million a year to operate - more self-sufficient.

Harding's idea calls for debate aplenty. A park that's "not very unique" to Harding may be a unique, economic niche for its nearby rural community. Michiganians need to have a frank, open dialogue about the state park system they want - and if they're prepared to pay for it.

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