New Hampshire has the only state park system in America that is entirely self-funded. The New Hampshire State Legislature is interested in determining whether the current self-funding scheme can provide sufficient funding to maintain the quality of New Hampshire’s state parks. To address this question, we provide a benchmark comparison between New Hampshire’s state park system and those of other similar states. We then assess whether a state park system’s funding scheme affects the quality of state parks, based on empirical evidence from the states.
The New Hampshire State Legislature is also interested in determining whether the organizing structure of the state park system affects the quality or key statistics of state park systems. Based on empirical evidence from the states, we assess whether the existence of a specialized parks department has any such effects.
Our research yielded two key findings. Most importantly, one of the potential problems of a completely self-funded system is the volatility of important key variables. New Hampshire’s state park system has proved to be especially susceptible to this volatility in attendance, operating budget, and dedication of budget to capital expenditures. Additionally, we conclude that the existence of a specialized parks department does not by itself appear to impact a state park system’s revenue or operating expenditures. We also found, however, that having a specialized parks department is associated with increased attendance.