Kentucky’s natural assets have attracted investors who want to finance improvements to state parks, but up until now they have been unable to, Kentucky Tourism Cabinet Secretary Don Parkinson says. Now that public-private partnership (P3) legislation has passed in Kentucky, Parkinson believes the parks will finally get the attention they need to attract investment and increase tourism.
In an interview with The Bottom Line, Parkinson noted that additional state funds have recently been allocated to revitalize state parks but said the added funding is not enough to do what needs to be done. Because of this, Parkinson said he believes the new P3 law that gives him the ability to attract private investors will give state parks the boost they need.
“The state does not have the money now, nor will it for years to come. So what we have worked on for the last six months is this public-private partnership, what’s referred to as P3. It’s been long-coming to Kentucky. It has been in the other states in the south for years and years and many states even in the Midwest. But we need it here badly,” Parkinson said. “What the state needs is private capital, either inside or outside, so that we can spend some money on these parks and really get them back to where they need to be.”
Parkinson touted the state’s natural attractions and prime real estate in many areas where state parks sit and said if they can do some repairs and put extra focus in certain areas they will better be able to attract visitors.
Citing the way public-private partnerships are used in other states for park systems and at the federal level for parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone and others, Parkinson said it is time to use P3 in Kentucky in a similar way.
“The good news is that we have a lot of pent up demand. People want to come and invest in Kentucky,” Parkinson said (at 2:45 in the video below).
Parkinson discussed the great opportunities he sees for the parks in Kentucky and said that potential will only continue to grow once the state begins to see some investments.
“We need to have outside money to get all this done. And some people will be interested in taking over some of these parks, we will retain title, but there is an opportunity here for people to come in and invest and grow the business. This isn’t about shrinking our footprint in recreation, it is about expanding it. But we need money to do that,” Parkinson said.
Watch part one of the interview with Parkinson below:
Check back on The Bottom Line in the coming weeks to see more of the interview with Parkinson including what types of projects the Cabinet is looking into, the process for selecting projects, and more about how public-private partnerships will work in the parks systems.