May 2013 Newsletter

MAY 2013 NEWSLETTER


This newsletter is available in PDF format
here.

In this issue:


Great Outdoors Month Nears
National Park Service Centennial Preparations
FLREA
Exciting Opportunity for Forest Service Recreation Program
Trail Partners Work Hard to Overcome MAP-21 Challenges




GREAT OUTDOORS MONTH NEARS

Excitement about Great Outdoors Month 2013 is building rapidly! State proclamations are being issued and posted here and we look forward to exhibiting them at Great Outdoors Week’s Opening Reception at the U.S. Department of the Interior on Monday, June 3. The number of National Get Outdoors Day sites is up and we have new national partners – see http://www.nationalgetoutdoorsday.org/. Great Outdoors Week (June 1-8) activities in Washington will include presentations of the ARC Legends and Beacon Awards, the Coalition for Recreational Trails’ Recreational Trails Program awards, the Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award and more. To be part of the fun, contact cahern@funoutdoors.com. For details on other key Great Outdoors Month activities, click on the following links:


National Trails Day
National Fishing and Boating Week
Welcome to the Water on National Marina Day
Great American Backyard Campout

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NATIONAL PARK SERVICE CENTENNIAL PREPARATIONS

The National Park Service (NPS) will celebrate its 100th anniversary in August 2016 and it is planning much more than an event celebrating its creation. The agency plans changes in its operation and focus to be relevant for another century – seeking innovative ways to reach many Americans who now rarely consider visiting one of the agency’s 400+ sites. Much of the change will involve a greater emphasis on partnerships, with nonprofit and for-profit organizations and with other governmental agencies, including those in the education and health fields. The agency is also contemplating new financial strategies which will lessen dependence on the annual appropriations of general funds – now more than 90% of the agency’s budget. And it has an action plan – A Call to Action – that focuses on internal changes to its operations.

Two other major actions have been taken recently. Working in partnership with its nonprofit arm, the National Park Foundation, NPS has hired a top agency to conduct research and then develop the plans for a multi-year, multi-million dollar per annum campaign: Grey. Grey has sought counsel from key recreation community leaders, including those masterminding Go RVing, Discover Boating and Take Me Fishing as well as top officials of Brand USA, the nation’s public/private international tourism marketing effort. Preliminary findings support strong recommendations that the campaign go after both current park champions and younger, urban and more diverse Americans and that parks must do a better job of explaining what opportunities they offer. A roll out of the campaign plans is likely this fall.

NPS has also created a 30-member Centennial Advisory Committee under its National Park System Advisory Board, with a six-member executive group that includes ARC President Derrick Crandall. The executive group has already met and the full committee will meet in Washington on June 18. In addition to advising the NPS Director and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on the Grey campaign efforts, the committee will help the agency solicit and prioritize offers to partner with the agency for 2016 and beyond. Among the 200+ ideas already on the table are offers from a major parade (hint – it normally occurs on January 1) and the Smithsonian Institute. One of the goals will be to choose efforts that are sustainable, or which open doors to ongoing partnerships.

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FLREA

FLREA – the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act – expires in December 2014. It authorizes and provides for the retention of entrance and recreation fees for most of the major federal recreation providers – notably excluding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Total annual revenues exceed $300 million annually. And in the current budget climate, fees are very, very important revenue streams. Public support for most federal recreation fees is strong, but FLREA has caused some political controversy. In particular, some Forest Service and BLM fees have generated enough opposition to prompt legislation which would repeal FLREA, introduced by senior and influential Senators from both parties.

The President has proposed a one-year extension of FLREA as part of his FY2014 budget proposal. ARC is working with a diverse consortium of organizations which are likely to support a longer extension while discussions and experimentation go on to deal with such issues as:


1) “dynamic pricing” of recreation services and opportunities, to try to encourage more visitation during non-peak periods;
2) reducing the cost of, and increasing the convenience of, fee collection efforts – including use of electronic fee collection;
3) replacing costly and largely ineffective public involvement programs with better forums for considering agency fee proposals;
4) incorporating the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the unified recreation fee program;
5) addressing details of the fee program ranging from senior passes to per car/per person options, fees paid by tour groups, and more.

Key recreation and conservation groups recently wrote to the Director of the National Park Service urging better use of existing fee authorities and use of increased revenues to support desired visitor services. To read that letter, click here. To join in discussions about the future of federal recreation fees, contact dcrandall@funoutdoors.com.

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EXCITING OPPORTUNITY FOR FOREST SERVICE RECREATION PROGRAM

The American Recreation Coalition-led effort for Continuing and Improving Recreation in National Forests took a giant step forward in early May. Eight recommendations were delivered to a potent USDA/FS group and drew an enthusiastic response. The USDA/FS team was led by Under Secretary Harris Sherman and included Robert Bonnie, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Agriculture, Meryl Harrell, Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of Agriculture, Patrick Holmes, Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of Agriculture, Joe Meade, the new Forest Service Director of Recreation, and Robin Morgan, Deputy Director of Recreation, Forest Service. The ARC team participants included Margaret Bailey, Senior Vice President of CHM - Government Services, Kevin Garden of the Garden Law Firm and Derrick Crandall, ARC President.


The proposal included eight recommendations:
1) FULLY UTILIZE AND UPDATE PARTNERSHIP AUTHORITIES
2) CAMPGROUND MAKEOVERS
3) IN-SEASON STORAGE OF RVs
4) IN-SEASON STORAGE OF BOATS
5) INCREASED COOPERATION WITH DMOs NEAR NATIONAL FORESTS
6) MARINA AND RESORT MAKEOVERS
7) NATIONAL FOREST RECREATION CENTERS
8) INCREASED USE OF YOUTH AND VETERANS CORPS AND SENIORS

Here is an excerpt from the proposal, which provides background for the recommendations:

Recreation lures millions of Americans to national forests annually. The importance of diverse, world-class recreation opportunities in national forests has found new understanding in the 21st Century. This new understanding is most welcome because changes in recreation preferences and fundamental shifts in federal capabilities make awareness and support for innovative ways to build and operate recreational infrastructure absolutely critical.

Recreation in national forests has long been dependent on cooperation between the Forest Service and other entities, public and private. Hunting and fishing were early national forest traditions, and they continue today, closely linking the Forest Service as a manager of habitat with states responsible for managing both wildlife and fisheries and hunting and fishing. Recreation at ski areas and other developed recreation sites in national forests depends upon private investment and operation - producing world-class experiences and accommodating changes in winter activities. Forest Service trail programs now rely more heavily on volunteers and state and community funding than on the efforts of employees as traditional trail users like hikers and equestrians share corridors and trailheads with bikers, ATVers, snowmobilers, dogsledders and runners.

Recreation on developed sites, ranging from ski areas to campgrounds to marinas and other water-focused sites, and driving for pleasure on and near roads through national forests represent a dominant share of today's forest recreation use. In the 21st Century, the Forest Service recreation mission should embrace two important recreation program "niches:" "backcountry," low-service opportunities and "frontcountry," actively-managed sites. In both, the Forest Service has a role as a direct recreation provider. But again in both "niches," use of partners will often allow the Forest Service to achieve its goals of diverse, quality recreation experiences as a manager – rather than the direct provider – of recreation.

Investments are needed for the national forests to provide world-class recreation opportunities that connect Americans and visitors with the land and our nation. Campgrounds and marinas are prime targets and, in many cases, can become national forest recreation centers that successfully expand access to diverse recreation opportunities in and near national forests.

Agreement was reached to pursue legal protection of private investments in recreation infrastructure such as campgrounds, marinas and on national forests – including transfer/reissuance of permits upon sale of a business. This protection is already provided to ski area permittees. In addition, the group felt it would be appropriate and helpful to form a national assistance team to aid implementation of pilots, recognizing that individual forests faced significant challenges under current budgets. The group also discussed priorities among the recommendations, and #1-5 received broad support.

Throughout the discussions, the Under Secretary and his team labeled recreation as one of the top Forest Service priorities, and noted unanimous agreement on this front from Secretary Vilsack to the Forest Service leadership team. The Under Secretary also reiterated the need for innovation and for partners to take over much of the recreation program operations, including investment in infrastructure. The USDA group made it clear that the choices facing FS recreation efforts were between sharp cutbacks and innovation, and even though the changes resulting from innovation would encounter some resistance from agency staff and traditional constituents, changes were essential.

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TRAIL PARTNERS WORK HARD TO OVERCOME MAP-21 CHALLENGES

America’s leading trail interests succeeded remarkably well in protecting the Recreational Trails Program as the re-authorization legislation, known as MAP-21, moved through the Congress, maintaining a stand-alone program and protected funding in a process that eliminated almost 75% of federal transportation programs and slashed funding for all but core transportation projects. The Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT), led by Co-Chairs Marianne Fowler, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Senior Vice President, and ARC President Derrick Crandall, developed remarkable communications among dozens of national organizations supporting RTP and grassroots advocates across the nation. Yet the legislation did include two modifications to RTP. The first was an opt-out for governors. In MAP-21's first year, two governors chose this option – Florida and Kansas. And the second change was to put the protected RTP funding into a category called Transportation Alternatives. The unplanned impact of this latter action has now become clear: assured RTP funding is squeezing the funding available for other important programs in some states. CRT is now working to increase awareness of the consequences of these MAP-21 changes as the Congress turns to extension or replacement of the law, which lapses on September 30, 2014.

CRT members are also urging governors to “opt-in” to RTP for FY14, working with state park directors and others to increase the awareness of governors about RTP’s many successes – including greatly increased harmony within the trails community and remarkable leveraging of available RTP funds with volunteerism and other support. California is a major focus for CRT members. As the state strives to deal with serious financial difficulties, it is reorganizing and combining agencies and programs – and the RTP program in the state was initially proposed to be lumped into a program to create paved, urban bike lanes and sidewalks. To understand more about the California issue and to add your voice to those calling for retaining the RTP efforts under California State Parks, click here.

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