Two West Kentucky lawmakers are supporting a bill that would let the state lease public land for private development.
Under legislation from Republican Representatives Richard Heath and Ken Imes, hotels and other private developments could be built in public parks, with the state's permission.
But Imes says the bill isn’t about privatization.
“We’re not trying to privatize parks," he said. "Basically, I like to use the word ‘franchise.’ What I’m trying to do is save our parks system in Kentucky. It’s deteriorating rapidly through nobody’s fault other than we just can’t keep ‘em up.”
The previous state budget slashed the parks budget by over eight percent, which led to shorter park operating hours across the commonwealth.
Imes says his bill could open the door to private management of some state parks, which he says would reduce their operating cost to taxpayers.
Those private groups would then pay taxes and mortgage fees to the state.
Imes says allowing private companies to develop hotels and restaurants doesn’t conflict with the philosophy behind the park system.
“I see we are serving the public much better, you’ve got better facilities, better accommodations, more going on around it, where they can come in for family or business organizational meetings," he said. " And I just see it as an expansion of the original concept of the park.”
Imes isn't sure how much money this could bring to the state park system.