RVs Move America Week is the time when the RV industry comes together to showcase the strength of the industry in meetings with federal policymakers across Capitol Hill, while collectively building a strategic roadmap to help define future growth of the industry. During advocacy meetings, members of the RV industry will be advocating for policies that directly affect the RV industry each day. Below is a deep dive into one of this year’s issues: campground modernization and recreation infrastructure.
If there is one bedrock issue that is driving the RV industry’s interest in outdoor recreation it is campground modernization and expansion. The RV Industry Association’s government affairs team has taken a multi-pronged approach: working collaboratively with the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, while also setting up our own individual meetings with Members of Congress and policymakers at the Departments of Interior, Agriculture, Commerce and more. The Team has also met with the professional staff on key Congressional Committees to promote campground modernization and expansion at every turn.
WHAT WE KNOW
We have outdated Eisenhower-era federal campground infrastructure, crumbling roads and bridges, deferred maintenance needs and limited camping availability. These are critical issues for the outdoor recreation industry and is a particularly critical issue for the RV industry. Inadequate campgrounds limit access to outdoor recreation opportunities and negatively impact the visitor experience.
Deferred maintenance costs are stacking up at key federal land agencies, like the National Park Service (NPS) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The Department of the Interior has over $16 billion in deferred maintenance costs. Of that total, NPS has the largest share at nearly $12 billion.
According to the most recent NPS Asset Inventory Summary there is $78 million in campground infrastructure deferred maintenance needs, as well as over $6.5 billion in deferred maintenance directly affecting roads, bridges, and water systems on NPS lands. Additionally, deferred maintenance for all USFS infrastructure totals $5.2 billion. That means that many of the campgrounds on federal lands are in dire need of facility upgrades including trail maintenance, water systems, access roads, utilities, bridge and tunnel repairs and more.
The benefits of expanding and improving the outdoor recreation economy are clear and compelling. When Americans participate in outdoor recreation such as RVing and camping, they purchase gas, gear, equipment and food. In return the outdoor recreation industry contributes $65.3 billion in annual tax revenue to federal coffers. In fact, a recent study confirmed that for every dollar Congress invests in the National Park Service, $10 is returned to the U.S. economy—which directly benefits our nation’s rural areas and gateway communities.
INFRASTRUCTURE LEGISLATION WILL BE CRITICAL
Our nation desperately needs a major infrastructure bill. Even President Trump and his so-called political adversaries, Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer, all agreed a few weeks ago that, as a nation, we should invest $2 trillion dollars into infrastructure. But, as usual, the big issue will be how to pay for such a grand investment.
Regardless of how it is financed, the RV Industry Association will be pushing hard to include a separate “Recreation Title” (a “title” is just a fancy legislative term for a section in a large bill) in any infrastructure legislation that advances this session. Fortunately, recreation is one of the few issues that is truly bipartisan – who doesn’t like to recreate?
Ultimately, many of the roads, trails, marinas, campgrounds and other outdoor structures are worn-out or desperately in need of renovation and expansion. An infrastructure package represents an extraordinary bipartisan opportunity to not only rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges and airports, but also to improve the beloved infrastructure on federally managed lands and waters.
Even with the inclusion of a recreation title in an infrastructure bill, the federal government is simply not in a position to pay for all the necessary and needed infrastructure. Beyond federal investments, enhanced federal partnerships with volunteers, concessioners and private business can help tackle these issues and eliminate the $78 million in campground infrastructure deferred maintenance.
Additionally, new revenue generating experiences and facilities can be offered to the public; shoulder and non-peak seasons could be extended; dynamic fee categories reflective of improved campsites/services ranging from Wi-Fi to RV utility hook-ups should be implemented; and rentals of traditional RVs, park model RVs, and outdoor recreation equipment/gear should be utilized to generate additional revenue which will drive rural prosperity and provide enhanced visitor experiences.
These are some of the critical elements that will advance the campground modernization and recreation infrastructure initiative and that should be included in a “Recreation Title” in any infrastructure bill.
During the RVs Move America Week advocacy meetings, advocates will ask their Members of Congress to:
- Advance America’s gray (roads, bridges, tunnels, etc.) and green (campgrounds, marinas, trails, etc.) infrastructure by incorporating an “Recreation Title” in any infrastructure legislation.
- Cosponsor S. 500/H.R. 1225, the Restore our Parks and the Restore our Parks and Public Lands Acts. These bipartisan bills offer innovative solutions and sustainable funding that will address the deferred maintenance backlog on federal lands, which is critical to improving and expanding federal campgrounds.
- Support the bipartisan Recreation Not Red-Tape Act, which offers sensible, non-controversial proposals to update processes and policies on our nation’s public lands and waters to improve access and experiences for all forms of outdoor recreation.
- Improve broadband access on federal land agency front country sites and key road corridors. This advanced service will supply RV campers and park visitors with reliable connectivity and in return will provide:
- Consistent Wi-Fi coverage at campgrounds;
- A means to contact emergency services in remote areas;
- Real-time weather alerts;
- Enhanced maps to safely navigate trails and waterways (without harm to the environment);
- The ability to access online reservations and rentals while traveling in rural areas;
- Access to valuable interpretive and educational information;
- Increased marketing and promotion of iconic federal lands via social media, and much more.
For more information on this issue, contact Chris Bornemann at [email protected].