By David Madden

NEW JERSEY (CBS) — New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced a plan to begin privatization of the state’s park system in an attempt to bridge an operating deficit now pegged at some $31 million.

The plan was unveiled this week at Liberty State Park, across the Hudson River from New York, one of three parks that could see some functions privatized in the name of economy.

The goal of the first phase is to increase non-tax resources to $15 million by 2015 through an initial round of partnerships with the private sector, and non-profit organizations and environmental foundations at some of the state’s largest parks.

That would include Wharton State Forest in South Jersey. Phase Two seeks to raise two-thirds of the state’s $39 million annual parks budget from alternative funding sources.

But some environmental groups are crying foul, suggesting this is part of a national movement to convert public parks into assets that corporations could manipulate.

Reported by David Madden, KYW Newsradio

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