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National parks need private company investment to thrive

By Frank Hugelmeyer and Thomas Dammrich

UNITED STATES — With fall upon us, millions of Americans will head to America’s iconic public lands and waters to soak up what’s left of warmer weather and get a glimpse of fall’s renowned foliage.

Ensuring Americans’ ability to enjoy our country’s outdoor spaces is big business and critical to the $887 billion outdoor recreation industry. Given their significant role in providing healthy, outdoor recreation for Americans and the millions of jobs and thousands of small businesses they support, it’s time our national parks, waterways and other public outdoor spaces get the attention they deserve.

In recent months, the decision by the Trump Administration to review the size of 27 National Monuments has spurred an important debate. Yet, there is a much greater threat to the nation’s recreation economy looming than monument borders and it is an issue that receives little to no attention. Improvements to our outdated recreation infrastructure have gone largely unaddressed by both political parties for decades, no matter who lives in the White House or is in the majority on Capitol Hill.

It is time for that to change.

The good news is Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is trying something different. He has laid out a course of action that addresses the nearly $20 billion maintenance backlog crippling many of our outdoor spaces and emphasizes the need to modernize services, lodging, marinas and campgrounds. His proposal invites Americans to fully utilize their public outdoor spaces and leverage proven public-private partnerships.

Zinke’s plan is clearly not an attempt to privatize public lands and waterways as some opponents have falsely claimed. Quite the opposite in fact, this is a modernization effort that aims to create the world class experiences visitors now expect, including practical elements such as providing for greater guest amenities and basic Wi-Fi.

The secretary recognizes that federal public land budgets and management practices no longer keep pace with rising expectations, as digital-age visitors demand more services, connectivity and access. To that end, he has led wide-ranging discussions designed to identify new sources of funding and innovative partnerships that will provide more opportunities for all Americans to enjoy the great outdoors.

We applaud Zinke for tapping into the unrivaled know-how of outdoor recreation executives by creating the Recreation Advisory Committee, a leadership forum dedicated to examining how public-private partnerships can expand access and improve infrastructure. Public-private partnerships are a well-established solution (think ski areas, marinas and gateway campgrounds) that can harness the expertise and investment of the private sector and, under Zinke and bi-partisan congressional leadership, achieve the upgrades desperately needed by outdoor enthusiasts across the country.

Other administrations have tried-and failed-to address the growing need for more access, modern infrastructure and basic maintenance. Continuing to put off the investment needed to bring all facilities and infrastructure up to code and to prepare public assets for the next generation of visitors is a recipe for more failure. That’s why we support Zinke’s innovative approach for tackling these issues.

The outdoor recreation industry will work with any administration or policymaker that proposes reasonable solutions to the threats we all face from political stalemate. America’s iconic public lands and waters, along with their significant economic and quality of life benefits, are too important to be held hostage by partisan politics. Whether you hunt, fish, camp, boat, paddle, RV, off-road, hike or bike, spending time in the outdoors is an American pastime that Zinke’s plan can help protect.

Frank Hugelmeyer is president of the RV Industry Association and former president and CEO of Outdoor Industry Association. Thomas Dammrich is president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Source: RV Industry Association press release


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About Ronnie Wendt

Ronnie Wendt is the editor in chief of RV Daily Report. She's been a writer/editor for more than 25 years, working in law enforcement, aviation, supply chain and now the RV industry. She's not a stranger to RVs, however. She grew up camping, and still camps as many weekends as she can every year.

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    If our public lands are handed over to private for profit businesses will cost us more money. They work on profit not the goodness of their heart. The problem is funding. If our leaders would collect the massive sums of taxes from the U.S. businesses that are evading taxes by sending profits overseas, we could fix our parks, roads etc. Where is the outrage? These so called U.S. corporations used our infrastructure, laws, and all our country has to offer to be successful just to hide their profits overseas. When they have a problem are they going to call the Cayman Islands military? Private business is making record profits in this country but we can’t pay to fix our parks and roads? Now they want to hand them our treasures and a tax cut? Wake Up America.

  2. New Ireland tax rate 8%. Obama couldn’t get Steven Jobs to move billions of profits back to USA. 35% USA corporate tax rate. Even Trumps 15% may not work. Do the math!