October / November 2012 Newsletter

October/November 2012 Newsletter


This newsletter is available in PDF format here.

In this issue:


Blue-Ribbon Group of National Park Leaders Gathers at Grand Canyon
2012 Recreation Exchanges Address Top Issues
FLREA - One Year Out
ARC Executive Committee Revitalizes Recreation Roundtable
Reminder - Partners Outdoors 2013




Blue-Ribbon Group of National Park Leaders Gathers at Grand Canyon

Nearly 150 leaders of America’s national park community gathered at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for a five-day discussion of opportunities and concerns involving national parks. The meeting, Grand Thoughts at the Grand Canyon, was organized by the National Park Hospitality Association and included executives of companies providing overnight accommodations and meals in parks, top National Park Service (NPS) leaders and the Presidents of both the National Park Foundation (NPF) and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). The meeting also attracted key leaders from the telecommunications and entertainment industries and national tourism leaders, including state tourism directors. Grand Thoughts was held at the Grand Canyon Lodge, a structure built in 1928 that continues today to provide an inspiring perspective on America’s natural beauty.

NPCA President Tom Kiernan called for unity among the parks community to achieve a “Bending of the Curve,” reversing downward trends in both park funding and visitation. Brent Young, Founder and Creative Director for Studio 78, a top creator of theme park attractions and innovative film concepts globally, touted the use of “Augmented Reality” as a part of park visits, including using geospatial information to share what has occurred at the same spot at which visitors stand during visits today. NPS Director Jon Jarvis delivered a powerful message about the unifying role of national parks and the display of American values reflected in the system’s nearly 400 units. Labeling his presentation “The Field Guide to American Values in the National Parks,” the Director highlighted the broad relevance of parks. He added that, for nearly 100 years, the National Park Service has been pursuing a mission of promoting and protecting parks. He rated the job on the protection side as “good.” In contrast, he put the job on the promotion side as largely unaddressed and key to the success of the agency over its next century.

NPS Associate Director Julia Washburn touted new partnerships in the telling of stories – interpretation and education – both during visits to national park units and “virtually.” New strategies to boost the financial and manpower resources available in national parks were another key topic of discussion. Participants learned about successes in related fields – including the rebuilding of Chicago’s lakeshore through a public/private partnership – and discussed new ideas ranging from a Penny for Parks proposal, which is connected with pending discussions regarding national surface transportation policy, to issues that could be addressed in conjunction with reauthorization of federal recreation fees, necessary by December 2014.

Verizon Wireless and satellite internet providers shared ideas for increasing, managing and utilizing improved cell and internet connectivity in parks – and offered a serendipity. They reminded park interests that they can be powerful allies in reaching the Americans who don’t come to our national parks – because they are existing customers of these firms. After outlining the opportunities associated with better connectivity in parks, NPS Deputy Director Peggy O’Dell challenged concessioners to identify five national parks where new technologies and strategies can be jointly tested by NPS and concessioners as national pilots.

Both NPS Director Jarvis and NPF President Neil Mulholland touted the 2016 Centennial of the National Park Service as an opportunity to share information about the importance of the national parks across America and the world. They explained a new initiative underway by the Grey Group, including key research on public awareness of and attitude towards parks and development of themes which can be used by the park family in a coordinated way.

Copies of key presentations and biographic information on more than 30 presenters are available at www.parkpartners.org. Video highlights of Grand Thoughts will be added to the website soon. For the schedule and list of participants click here.

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2012 Recreation Exchanges Address Top Issues

The October Recreation Exchange featured Gregory Nadeau, Deputy Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, who addressed MAP-21, national surface transportation legislation enacted in July and implemented as of October 1. He called the legislation a "good, bipartisan effort" providing some certainty and flexibility to transportation planning, while acknowledging that the legislation was not "transformational" on funding. He expressed the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) continuing support for the National Scenic Byways Program despite the lack of approved funding for the program's administration and grants, and described the continued dedicated funding for the Recreational Trails Program, with only two states opting out, as a "really remarkable outcome" that demonstrated the program’s national support. He also cited the importance of support for transportation in national parks and other federal lands and for bike-ped programs, which he described as good for tourism, good for healthy children, and good for the economy.

Mr. Nadeau noted that a strategy for investing in transportation infrastructure will remain a top Congressional issue, despite MAP-21. He described the degradation of the nation’s transportation infrastructure as a slow, painful process that accelerates with time. "We need to begin investing today, not 10 years from now," he stated. He also noted the growth in the importance of state governors and state legislatures, who have been given more flexibility and more opportunities to be creative in their leveraging of resources in transportation investment decisions.

The October Recreation Exchange also allowed the recreation community to pay tribute to John Horsley, who is retiring from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). Mr. Horsley was praised for leadership within the transportation community, both as a key official at the DOT during the Clinton Administration and as AASHTO’s Executive Director. For a full report on the Exchange, click here.

November’s Recreation Exchange will feature a post-election analysis, focusing heavily on recreation-related positions taken by November 6 winners and themes most likely to appeal to those in positions of power over recreation issues. A major theme will be applying the findings of research done in the summer of 2012 regarding public attitudes toward parks and the Great Outdoors by two leading political research firms. According to Whit Ayres of North Star Opinion Research, a leading Republican pollster, and Geoff Garin, President of Peter D. Hart Research Associates, a top Democratic pollster, recreation themes appeal strongly to voters of both parties – but with different priorities. They and others will help us understand how to use our arguments well with those in the White House and Congress in January. Details on the date and our speakers will be out shortly.

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FLREA - One Year Out

The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) was signed into law in December 2004 – and will sunset in December 2014 without Congressional action. The legislation was based upon the “Fee Demonstration Program” enacted in 1996, at ARC’s urging, which provided for retention of entrance and recreation fees by four federal agencies. FLREA now provides substantial funding for the recreation efforts of five agencies, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. Most FLREA-authorized fees are non-controversial – but not all. In fact, FLREA fees for the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have prompted lawsuits and proposed legislation, both seeking to limit application of fee authority.

Addressing these issues is important – and can’t be done well at Congressional hearings. And important policy issues are unlikely to be addressed by the dedicated agency representatives who meet regularly to oversee the operations of FLREA. ARC will continue to create forums for conversation and for developing consensus among major recreation interests on fee policies and programs. Among the topics which should be discussed are those from a list arising at the Grand Thoughts at the Grand Canyon meeting:

  • Should the senior pass be revised? Should its cost move to $80 for a lifetime pass? Should the age for eligibility be raised, and if so, to what age? Should discounts on campsites for seniors be changed from 50% to 25%?
  • Should we provide a new free, or reduced-cost America the Beautiful Pass for those below the poverty level?
  • Should the National Park Service be allowed to benefit from a premium, multiple-year Centennial Park Pass?
  • Should we collect and retain addresses of America the Beautiful Pass purchasers and pursue renewals via email and direct mail?
  • Should national park entrance fees be revised to end subsidies for multiple-day stays?
  • Should the USA, like Canada, provide all youth of a certain age with a free park pass to encourage park visits?
  • Should we encourage earning passes to recreation sites with entrance fees through volunteer work at non-fee units to address the rich park/poor park dichotomy resulting from 80% fee retention at collection sites?
  • Should FLREA’s successor require inclusion of search-and-rescue insurance in backcountry permit costs, with discounts for training and locator beacon use?
  • Should FLREA’s successor require more efficient and convenient collection of fees through E-ZPass and PayPal technologies?
  • Should Purple Heart recipients be automatically eligible to receive free access to federal recreation sites? Currently, they must submit proof of a permanent disability.

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    ARC Executive Committee Revitalizes Recreation Roundtable

    Key recreation industry executives created the Recreation Roundtable in 1987 as a follow up to the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors. Led by Sheldon Coleman of The Coleman Company, Dick Nunis of Walt Disney Attractions, Harry Shaw of Huffy, Art Peterson of KOA and others, the group met with the President, leading Members of Congress and other national leaders and played a key role on issues ranging from placing a priority on recreation by federal land-managing agencies to VIP visits to federal recreation sites to advances on volunteerism, recreation fees, scenic byways and new opportunities for recreation services and activities on federal lands and waters. The Roundtable also conducted 10 years of research on recreation participation and attitudes of Americans toward recreation issues.

    ARC’s Executive Committee has directed staff to revitalize the Roundtable in 2013 to address key recreation issues, including the key role federal lands and waters play in sustaining and growing jobs in the recreation industry across the nation. As before, the Roundtable will draw together a small group of diverse corporate leaders and will also involve the executives representing key recreation trade associations. The initial meeting of the new Recreation Roundtable is planned for March 2013 in Washington.

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    Reminder - Partners Outdoors 2013

    Partners Outdoors 2013 will be held February 19-21 at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. The session will focus on three key topics: 1) innovative and supplementary funding for recreation sites and operations on federal lands and waters; 2) opportunities to attract international visitors to America’s Great Outdoors and assist both the economy and understanding of American values; and 3) using MAP-21 and beyond to support access to and travel through America’s Great Outdoors.

    Partners Outdoors will also respond to increasing restrictions on federal travel – and the threat those restrictions pose to communications among public and private partners who support the needs of recreation visitors. Participants will use videoconferencing and other new technologies to connect with off-site speakers and to share reports on recommendations with senior federal agency and private sector recreation community leaders.

    Participation in Partners Outdoors is through invitation of the sponsoring entities, including seven federal agencies, the National Association of State Park Directors and the American Recreation Coalition. For more details, contact Catherine Ahern at cahern@funoutdoors.com.

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