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Time to Privatize National Parks?

This is a rush transcript from "Glenn Beck," February 23, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GLENN BECK, HOST: America's state parks are in trouble like the rest of the country right now. In Arizona alone, 13 state parks are now shutting down by June. Two closed just last night in Arizona; only nine remain open. The Parks Department can't afford to operate them anymore.

Well, there's a guy who has come to the forefront and he said, I'll run them for Arizona. You know, I'm going to sell concessions and everything else. I'll make money. I'll pay the state.

Sounds like a win-win, because the state gets to keep the park. Just have somebody else run them as a private business.

Oh, that's a problem. Nobody is biting yet.

Warren Meyer of the Recreation Resource Management is with us now. OK. Warren, what is the catch here?

WARREN MEYER, RECREATION RESOURCE MANAGEMENT: Hey, Glenn. It's good to be here.

BECK: Good to have you. What is the catch?

MEYER: I don't think — well, personally, I'm very passionate about it, so obviously, I don't think there is one. But there's a lot of things that the state fears and I don't know exactly what is going on yet in Arizona because we're pretty early in the process.

But in other states, typically, they are folks that are philosophical opposed to having capitalism in the parks. There are folks that — well, this is really new and it's risky and they fear the loss of control. And there are folks that...

(CROSSTALK)

BECK: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Wait. Why is it new and risky?

MEYER: Excuse me. Sorry?

BECK: You said that people think it's new and risky. Why is it new and risky?

MEYER: Well, it's not. I do it at over 150 parks across the country. It's new for each authority we try. Remember, recreation is done by federal agencies, state agencies, counties, cities. And so each of them and individually, it's sort of a new thing they have to digest.

But in my world, I have the same frustration as you. I say this is something I do every day. I run parks in high-quality manner all over the country. And I would love to do it in Arizona and keep our parks open.

BECK: OK. Out of the parks you run, how many of them are running in the red?

MEYER: Oh, there are a few. One of the things the state agencies realize is if they have some real, real, real dogs, they don't want private companies just to hydrate them, to take only the best and leave them with the dogs.

And so smart contractors will say, "OK. You can have some of the good ones. You can have some of the bad ones." But I don't have any contracts that lose money as an entire contract.

BECK: How do you make money?

MEYER: I make money on all of them.

BECK: How do you make money?

MEYER: Well, I make money — well, completely from the user fees that are paid with people coming in. I don't take any government subsidiaries. I don't take any help from any other agencies.

I'm completely paid when somebody comes to the gate and they pay their camping fee or somebody comes to the gate and they pay the fee to come in, $6 to park their car and use picnic area or the boat launch.

BECK: It's a dream come true.

MEYER: I get paid when regular Americans come in to visit.

BECK: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

BECK: How much does the state charge when you come into these state parks? What's the difference — are you jacking up the prices?

MEYER: Actually, just the opposite. The state parks at Arizona are now raising the prices and some places are doubling them from $10 to $20.

We've actually proposed keeping the prices and all the parks we're proposing to run flat, the same as last year. So we're actually proposing lower prices in the state.

BECK: All right. Well —

MEYER: But we run a number of parks right next door. Remember, there are federal authorities that run things in Arizona. I run things for those federal authorities here in Arizona.

I run parks right next to Arizona state parks and do it for a lower user fee with less visitation. And I make money and pay the government to boot.

BECK: OK. I'm trying to figure out what the catch is. What would be stopping people — other than they just think private business is evil. Is it possible, the loss of jobs? Are you going to be hiring the same, you know, state workers? Or is that the way you save money?

MEYER: Certainly, you know, I use different workers and different kind of workers. But here in Arizona, we're past that. I mean, these parks are getting closed and the workers are getting laid off right now.

BECK: OK.

MEYER: So we're past, you know, job loss fears.

BECK: OK. Hold on just a second. We have more — I don't know why this doesn't make sense to more people. Back in a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BECK: OK. Here is your choice if you are living in the state of Arizona: Park that is open and functioning or no park -- a park that's closed.

Seems pretty easy to choose if you like parks.

Warren Meyer is hoping to privatize some of Arizona state parks because they're closing them down because they can't afford to keep them open anymore.

What happens to the condition of a park if it is closed down? I mean, is it like a neighborhood? You close down a neighborhood and everything is going to go into disrepair.

MEYER: It's awful, Glenn.

I've had to take care of a couple of parks that have been closed for even as short as six months. And the amount of money we had to spend to get it back in shape; these things degrade really fast.

BECK: OK. Here is the question. I mean, you're not going to do anything like, you know, try to build Winnie the Pooh's house in Petrified Forest, right?

MEYER: Right.

BECK: I mean, you're not going to commercialize it.

MEYER: We can't. Right. Because my bread is buttered with people who want to come out and see nature.

BECK: All right. So you're not going out to the, you know, Saguaro cactuses and chopping them down and making, "Hey, this is like Abraham Lincoln's log cabin but it's out of cacti," right?

MEYER: Exactly. And we operate out of very strict restrictions. I mean, we can't build a building. We can't change a fee. We can't do a lot of things without permission of the state. I wouldn't want to anyway, because people are coming out to see the cactuses, not a some goofy tourist attraction.

BECK: Warren, I thank you very much for your time. Thanks for being on the show.

I have to tell you, America. I was just at SeaWorld, what, a couple of weeks ago when Bill O'Reilly I went and we did our tour.

And I went down there and took the kids to SeaWorld. I've never been to SeaWorld before. I've always wanted to go when I was a kid but we couldn't afford it. So I took the kids down.

And when I was talking to people at SeaWorld, they talked about how many seals they save. They save like 300 to 500 seals a year. And you know, they wash up on the beach or they're starving some place. And they take them in and they, you know, nurse them back to health and then they release them in the wild.

Now the state does that, too, with state funds — your tax dollars in California. Or you can have SeaWorld do it and you get an amusement park out of it at the same time.

It seems to me that evil capitalism doesn't have to be evil. Isn't it better to have SeaWorld do that and your state is still in good financial shape?

I don't understand environmentalists and all of these anti-capitalists. I just don't get it.

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