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Are D&R Canal State Park, Six Mile Run On The Auction Block?

Six Mile Run State Park could be open to privatization under a plan approved by the Murphy administration. (Graphic: NJ Trails Association.)

The Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park and Six Mile Run Reservoir Site could be part of a program included in a stop-gap budget measure that will open state parks to privatization.

Both areas fall within Franklin’s boundaries.

Gov. Phil Murphy on June 30 signed the $7.7 billion stop-gap budget, designed to fund the state through the end of September. The state’s budget process has been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and state legislators are scrambling to find ways to make up for projected income deficits caused by the state’s economic shutdown.

Included in the more than 100-page spending plan is language that would allow private for-profit and non-profit organizations to bid on leases for state parks.

“On or before September 1, 2020, the Department of Environmental Protection shall issue a solicitation to engage the private for-profit and non-profit sector in reducing maintenance and capital investment backlog and environmental remediation at state parks in order to facilitate enhanced cultural, recreational and local economic opportunities for New Jersey residents through appropriate means including leaseholds,” the language reads.

When asked if the state park and reservoir site run by the state parks department that fall within Franklin Township’s boundaries would be included in those solicitations, Murphy spokeswoman Alex Altman wrote, “The Governor’s Office and Department of Environmental Protection will work together to evaluate all options and ensure that New Jersey’s parks remain an accessible resource for residents.”

Ed Potosnak, executive director of the township-based New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, said in an email that his organization “will oppose any efforts to privatize our parks.”

Picking up on state Sen. Loretta Weinberg’s criticism of the language – she called it “sneaky” – Potosnak wrote, “Clearly there are some sneaky Legislators in Trenton, but that will come as no surprise to New Jerseyans.”

“Parks are for the people not the billionaires,” Potosnak wrote

“I believe Governor Murphy will do the right thing and keep these parks in the hands of the people, but as a watchdog for our environment, New Jersey LCV will hold him and all elected officials accountable for any short-sighted attempts to make a quick buck on the backs of our public lands,” he wrote.

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