Friday, October 11, 2013

This is rich. We can run Mt. Rushmore from right here in South Dakota.

     Besides the obvious embarrassment that South Dakota's congressional delegation should be feeling about the fact that their fed up constituents figured out a way to run Mount Rushmore National Park with their own money and resources in spite of the federal government shutdown, our elected federal officials might consider contemplating the magnitude of the precedent that has just been set.  If it's this easy to turn over the operations of a federally owned and operated facility to state and local private interests, why just stop at a national park?
     Apparently there doesn't seem to be much Constitutional or statutory hindrance to turning some federal operations over to states and the citizens within those states, as the ease of the operational transfer of Mount Rushmore didn't take more than a few days to accomplish.  Ownership is another matter, of course, and it does give the federal government a lot of leverage when it comes to making sure that local managers don't carry things to marketing extremes.  Just the same,  letting states and localities, in partnership with private interests, come up with the money to run federally owned assets seems like a promising idea from the start.  It's probably reasonable to expect operations similar to the well-run and profitable Custer State Park in South Dakota's Black Hills to emerge.
     For one thing, locally designed operations are probably likely to fit area needs better than federally mandated procedures.  I have no doubt, for example, that if state and private interests were to operate Mount Rushmore in perpetuity that marketing innovations will develop in a way that would lead to a significant increase in visitation.  Same would hold true for, say, the ferret re-introduction program occurring in the National Grasslands adjacent to Badlands National Park, a woefully under-promoted venture that would have a great deal of potential for adding visitors to the region.  Getting some local public-private management of the Grasslands would probably develop some ideas in that regard, as well as adding some profit-oriented ideas for marketing the Grasslands as visitor destinations in their own right. 
     Obviously, given my background and business pursuits, I'm oriented to tourist visitation issues, no trifling interest considering that tourism is South Dakota's second largest industry.  But I think the potential for the concept of getting more local control of operational issues at federal installations is worth considering.  If the federal government's shutdown lasts long enough for the South Dakotans primed to operate Mount Rushmore to develop a track record, my guess is that the concept will be thought of as an idea whose time has arrived.  Now if that doesn't jolt our elected federal officials into realizing that this shutdown may be touching off a revolution of sorts, nothing will. 

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