Private companies could manage some Mississippi state parks

Some Mississippi state parks may go under private management in the coming months.

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks will soon be soliciting bids from vendors to handle the functions of at least one park, communications director Jennifer Head told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

The ministry asked earlier this year if private groups were interested in running a park. Head said two groups responded. She declined to reveal which parks are under consideration for privatization, but said information will be included when the tender is published.

House of Commons Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Committee Chairman Bill Kinkade, a Republican from Byhalia, said the privatization was the highlight of a year of his visits to state parks.

“I look at it from a profitability standpoint,” Kinkade said.

He said some state parks that could see private management are Hugh White in Granada, John Kyle in Sardis, John Cossar in Oakland and Wall Doxey in Holly Springs.

The agency’s decision to potentially partner with a private company comes after Senate Fisheries and Wildlife Committee Chairman Neil Whaley, a Republican from Potts Camp, introduced a bill during the session of 2021 to privatize the management of several state parks and hand part of them to local governments. .

After objections from county supervisors, Whaley amended the bill to establish a study committee to review all state parks and make recommendations for improvement. Bill later died in the House.

A provision in the agency’s budget allows the executive director of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to enter into an agreement with a private organization to manage any state park, regardless of legislative input.

State parks have endured years of neglected maintenance. The ministry said earlier this year it had a maintenance backlog of $ 147 million. When the Daily Journal asked for more information on this figure, the agency could not explain the source of the estimate.

It is not publicly known which private vendors responded to the department’s request for information on privatization, but at least one recreation management company, Vista Recreation, has a registered lobbyist in the state.