RESTON, Va. — For the first time ever, members of the Trump administration and Congress as well as outdoor recreation industry leaders were all in the same room and in agreement on ways to leverage public-private partnerships to improve visitor experiences on public lands and waters, the RV Industry Association reported.
Progress was also reported on efforts to reduce the Department of Interior’s maintenance backlog within the National Park Service (NPS).
The meeting, held at the Department of Interior (DOI) July 18, included Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, Acting National Park Service Director Mike Reynolds, Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.), Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.-2), Congressman Jim Banks (R-Ind.-3) and executive leadership from the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable (ORIR).
RVIA’s Government Affairs Department has been working closely with Zinke for months in an effort to provide solutions to modernize and expand campgrounds in a cost-effective way that provides more access to public lands, while balancing DOI’s conservation goals, the release explained.
These efforts provide solutions for the federal government to keep pace with electrical, broadband and amenity standards that align with the expectations and needs of 21st century RVers.
This meeting and the “Made in America” media event are the latest steps in RVIA’s quest to modernize and expand federal campgrounds as we bring awareness of the substantial impact the RV industry economy has on American jobs and the RV camping experience has on American consumers.
During the meeting, ORIR members fulfilled a promise made during an April meeting with Sec. Zinke to provide a list of “shovel-ready” public-private partnership opportunities.
“We already have thousands of private partners who operate on federal lands. Whether it’s the iconic Jammers in Glacier National Park, the historic El Tovar Lodge at the Grand Canyon, or the kayaks that you can rent on the Potomac River, American workers are at the heart of helping American families experience our great outdoors,” said Secretary Zinke.
Although Zinke had requested a list of only 10 projects, RVIA, along with its ORIR partners, provided nearly 30 opportunities for immediate private investment on public lands totaling more than $80 million.
During the presentation, one project in particular caught the Secretary’s interest: expanding broadband service on the National Park Service’s developed front country, which includes campgrounds and RV sites. This project involves expanding a successful public-private partnership with a concessioner who has a proven no-cost-to government strategy that has been utilized at Department of Defense facilities nationwide.
Through this model, the concessioner designs, constructs and operates the broadband access, providing free visitor information and enhanced Wi-Fi at very reasonable rates. Broadband access is sometimes wrongly characterized as just a “nice to have” for Millennials and their Instagram accounts.
Aside from meeting the desires of this growing demographic, there are many important safety benefits from expanding broadband including weather alerts, enhanced maps to safely navigate trails and waterways as well as providing interpretive and educational information to enhance the visitor experience.
Immediately following the meeting, Zinke made a public announcement that he would be creating a Recreation Advisory Committee dedicated to looking at public-private partnerships across all public lands, with the goal of expanding access to and improving the infrastructure on public lands. RVIA and other ORIR members will be an integral part of this committee.
“RVIA is very encouraged and excited by the advances made during Tuesday’s meeting. This is just the beginning step in the process to bring common sense solutions to address the need for modernizing and expanding campgrounds to meet the needs of the growing number of RVers,” said RVIA President Frank Hugelmeyer.
SOURCE: RV Industry Association press release