Haslam administration abandons state park privatization plans

Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau told a state legislative committee today that Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration is abandoning plans to privatize operations at Tennessee state parks, reports the Times Free Press. He said TDEC’s focus will now be on using more than $100 million previously approved for state parks to begin addressing decades of ignored capital needs.

That includes tearing down and constructing a new inn at Fall Creeks Falls State Park, located on the Upper Cumberland Plateau, Martineau said.

Martineau’s department, with Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s support, had sought to privatize management of the park and construction of the new inn but it proved a political land mine. That and the lack of interest from private companies forced the administration to pull back the effort last spring.

But it was unclear until today what the path going forward would be… Martineau revealed the plan during a legislative hearing on a bill filed in this year’s General Assembly.

The bill, which stalled in the legislative session and shipped off for summer study, seeks to place new restrictions on further privatization by Haslam who has made expansion of outsourcing or privatization one of the hall marks of his administration. (Note: The bill is HB944/SB1047, sponsored by Rep. Tilman Goins of Morristown and Sen. Janice Bowling of Tullahoma, both Republicans.)

“What we have decided in consultation and approval from the governor’s office is what we want to focus on the rest of this administration is getting those construction projects up and running,” Martineau said.

“They will be moving forward whether they’re renovation or the Fall Creek Falls and Paris Landing rebuilds,” Martineau added.

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