The RV Industry Association’s federal affairs team has made numerous visits to Capitol Hill and public land agency offices this legislative session to promote and protect the RV industry. One of the critical issues affecting the RV and outdoor recreation industries is the need to address our nation’s outdated Eisenhower-era federal campground infrastructure, crumbling roads and bridges, deferred maintenance needs and limited camping availability within our iconic public lands.
At a time when the RV industry has grown to record levels, inventory and maintenance needs have not kept up with the demand from the RV camping industry. Consequently, RV overnight stays at National Park Service (NPS) campgrounds have declined from 4.5 million in the 1980s to 2.5 million in 2018.
National parks are significant revenue generators for local communities - many in rural areas. In 2017, park visitors spent over $18 billion in towns and cities near park sites, supporting over 306,000 jobs and providing a total boost of $35 billion to the U.S. economy. It is more important now than ever to invest in America's booming $734 billion outdoor recreation economy that accounts for 2.2% of the U.S. GDP.
One piece of bipartisan and bicameral legislation that, if enacted, will offer practical solutions to restoring these iconic public places, is the Restore Our Parks Act (S. 500) and its House counterpart the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act (H.R. 1225).
House and Senate bill sponsors invited the RV Industry Association and members of the National Park Second Century Action Coalition to participate in a press event last week to underscore the importance of addressing the $12 billion of deferred maintenance plaguing our national parks. To watch the press conference, click here. (Note: Senator King talks about his RV trip at 11:07!)
We’re excited to report that due to advocacy efforts from organizations like the RV Industry Association, NPS estimates that during Fiscal Year 2018, more than $671 million in needed repair work was completed at national parks across the country - one of the largest amounts of deferred maintenance needs retired in a single year. NPS invested $11 million in campground infrastructure across 57 park units, $213 million to fix roads and bridges and $56 million in water and wastewater systems across 108 park units.
We’re also happy to report that public-private partnerships are working. For example, Xanterra, one of the largest NPS concessioners has committed to investing $25 million in Yellowstone National Park to upgrade overnight accommodations including the Fishing Bridge RV Park and Campground - one of the most popular RV-specific campgrounds in Yellowstone.
While there’s still a lot of work ahead, incredible strides are being made on this issue thanks to the work of the Association and groups like the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, Pew Charitable Trusts and the National Park Second Century Action Coalition. Congress and the Administration are listening to the needs of the RV and outdoor recreation industries and we will continue to make sure that we have a seat at the table and that our voices are heard on this critical issue.
For more information, contact Director of Federal Affairs Chris Bornemann at [email protected].