Home > Uncategorized > Christie Parks Funding Policy: Oil & Gas Pipelines and Electric Transmission Lines Get Cheap Leases, While River Tubers, Kayakers, and Boaters Pay New Fees

Christie Parks Funding Policy: Oil & Gas Pipelines and Electric Transmission Lines Get Cheap Leases, While River Tubers, Kayakers, and Boaters Pay New Fees

 Wild & Scenic

Delaware River “Hot Dog Man” Update

All hell seems to be breaking loose in response to press coverage of the fact that DEP is seeking a $140,000 lease (with $2 per Delaware River tuber) for the D&R Canal State Park Delaware River access lease now used by the “Hot Dog Man”:

Delaware River tubing company must pay at least $140,000 to continue operating


While Greg Crance might be known as the “Hot Dog Man,”this wasn’t quite the type of pickle he was looking for.

Crance, owner of Kingwood Township-based Delaware River Tubing Inc., has recently learned that in order to keep running his river tubing business of 11 years, he’ll have to pony up at least $140,000 to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to obtain exclusive commercial use of the boat launch he uses along a stretch of D&R Canal State Park.

In past years, Crance said, all that was needed to operate was a $200 special permit use.

Last year, he didn’t pay anything. This year, the DEP is seeking bids of at least $140,000.

Last summer, I learned about this dispute and viewed it as a perfect example of DEP’s failure to enforce environmental laws in order to generate revenues from lease/concessions fees under the new Christie State Parks funding policy. I wrote:

So, why has DEP not taken enforcement action for this egregious violation (which triggered a cease and desist order by the USACE, an organization not known for environmental sensitivity)?

The reason DEP has looked the other way on blatant violations is because DEP has adopted Governor Christie’s vision and pauper policy for the State parks.

Governor Christie’s  “Sustainable Parks Funding Strategy” (see also Governor Christie’ press release) seeks to maximize concession revenues in State parks and to privatize commercial revenue generating operations in State parks.

The head of DEP’s Parks and Natural Resource programs, Assistant Commissioner Rich Boornazian,  is a former real estate hack, with no environmental training or experience.

At the same time, DEP has failed to collect lease revenues from major corporate Parks land users, like oil and gas pipelines and electric power transition lines (see this from our friends at PEER:

FAIR MARKET VALUE LEASES COULD FUND JERSEY PARK SYSTEM — Shale Gas Pipeline Highlights State’s Failure to Collect Full Payments from Utilities

… Over the last several years, a series of audits by the Office of Legislative Services found major flaws in the DEP Office of Leases and Concessions, most notably its failure to charge fair market value or collect overdue lease and concession payments. In response to these audits and PEER advocacy, the Legislature mandated that DEP “conduct a re-appraisal of the rents and fees charged for all residences and other buildings and structures, and for utility easements and right-of-ways, located on State park or forest lands to ensure they reflect current fair market values and will continue to do so” (P.L. 2008, c.31).  DEP was then supposed to integrate this with its plan to fund state parks and forests, a plan due on July 1, 2009.More than two years after this statutory deadline, DEP has done neither mandated task.  Instead the Christie administration has explored a number of small revenue measures to commercialize parks, such as selling corporate naming rights for park facilities and privatizing various park operations.“As this new lease richly demonstrates, charging fair market value for utility easements from the energy industry, as the state is required to do, would be a major funding source for depleted parks and state lands budgets,” Wolfe added.  “If the Christie managers want to run the state more like a business, it should start by collecting the rents truly owed.  Doing this basic job would eliminate the need to panhandle in the parks with chintzy privatization schemes.”

(see also: DEP Parks Funding Plan Can Start By Collecting The Rent)

So, instead of collecting rents owned by their corporate friends, the Christie DEP increases user fees (e.g. new boat ramp launch fees) and promotes illegal and destructive schemes like “The Hot Dog Man”.

This is what happens under DEP Commissioner Martin’s vision of DEP promoting economic development and revenue producing private concessions in state parks.

Looks like my initial take was right on point – DEP is seeking to expand revenue from the operation, and that desire for revenue sure seems to be over-riding the environmental concerns with this operation. (Yes, I read the DEP RFP and noted that it does require compliance with DEP permits, something that did not and does not now exist – there are no DEP stream encroachment or other permits issued to this project, as far as I know).

So, let me lay out my larger take here:

I am not opposed to DEP levying lease/concession and access fees on a commercial operation in a State Park, like the Hot Dog Man operation.

And I do not think that $140,000 is too much to pay for that lease or that $2 per tuber who use that commercial operation is too much to pay.

What I see as the problems here are:

1) The Christie privatization and State lands/Parks fee policy encourages commercial operations in State Parks. This is not right. Parks should not rely on commercial lease and concession fees – or even entrance or user fees – to survive.

Parks are a public obligation that should be funded by the General Fund and free to all users.

Commercial operations are incompatible – in almost all locations – with public Parks and many state lands.

In places where low impact commercial operations are compatible with the Park mission, functions, and environmental setting, then they should pay the full costs their operations impose on the public sector (not just State costs, but local as well) and Parks operations, plus an above market rate premium from the profits of the operation. This is only fair, because the public park/state land itself and its location are the primary creator of the commercial viability of the operation.

2) The Christie policy subsidizes uses of public lands that are environmentally destructive and totally inappropriate and incompatible with the integrity of public lands, like oil & gas pipeline and electric transmission lines.

These uses should be banned (new uses) or existing severely restricted as an option of last resort – while paying huge fees not only for environmental destruction and mitigation, but a significant percentage of the profits derived from the use. This approach will discourage the siting and use of public lands for these kind of inappropriate uses, instead of encouraging it.

3) If General Fund support and huge fees were collected from highly profitable existing commercial operations – like oil, gas, and electric transmission – were dedicated to parks and public lands, then there would be no need to collect fees from park users, river tubers, or Kayak and boat access.

4) DEP needs to strictly enforce all environmental laws on state lands – that is not happening right now.

5) The Delaware River is a Congressionally designated Wild & Scenic River (from Trenton north). This designation and the management plan apply to the entire river corridor, including not just the river and water quality, but scenic, historic transportation, cultural, natural resources, and recreational attributes and issues.

I have not reviewed the management plan in any depth, but my initial impression is that while I support public access and low impact recreational uses of the river, a commercial operation of the scale and type of Hot Dog Man is not compatible with a Wild & Scenic designation.

And I wish they would ban jet ski’s and all motorized boats on the river.

End of sermon.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
You must be logged in to post a comment.