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    U.S. Officials & Industry Leaders Discuss Recreation Expansion

    Posted by Emily Hare
    on Tuesday, April 25, 2017

     Senior officials from the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and the U.S. Forest Service met with more than 30 representatives of the outdoor recreation industry at Shenandoah National Park yesterday. Their goal: discuss improving visitor experiences on America’s public lands and waters. The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA) was among the organizations in attendance to represent the outdoor recreation industry.

    The meeting was hosted by the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable (ORIR) at Skyland Resort – operated by National Park concessioner Delaware North.

    At the meeting, ORIR members, key recreation company CEOs and senior administration officials discussed how improved infrastructure and increased opportunities for innovation and public-private partnerships will give more people the chance to enjoy healthy, active fun on their public lands and waters, while helping outdoor recreation continue to grow as a powerful and positive force in America.

    Meeting participants identified access as a crucial area where the private sector can help federal partners improve visitor experiences in the great outdoors. They discussed the negative impact of access restrictions and the value of adopting practices to help enhance access to public lands and waters, including a “yes first” mentality, the streamlining of permitting processes, and closer management partnerships with state fish and wildlife agencies and the recreation industry.

    Recreation leaders meet with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.
    Participants also discussed the importance of providing visitors with world-class experiences in these world-class places, and the role private industry can play in upgrading facilities, increasing connectivity, implementing electronic passes, modernizing campsites, and more.

    Industry members offered their ideas on reducing the multi-billion-dollar maintenance backlog plaguing the public lands. Suggestions included longer concessions contracts, extended service hours and seasons, restructured fee retention, reduced barriers to private investment, more efficient fee collection and a reassessment of backlog needs.

    The day’s discussions concluded in the office of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in downtown Washington, DC, capping a full and encouraging day of discussions with Trump Administration officials.

    Secretary Zinke had originally planned to spend most of the day with a larger group of recreation leaders in the park but travel challenges the prior day interrupted those plans.  The scheduled discussions went on and were very productive, with Administration participation by the Interior Department’s Senior White House Liaison Doug Domenech, Special Assistant to the Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Virginia Johnson, Acting National Park Service (NPS) Director Mike Reynolds and Forest Service Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon. 

     Several of the stories raised at the Shenandoah meeting were shared with the Secretary, and the wide-ranging discussion included plans for on-going cooperation and collaboration, including the development of sites for innovative, partner-based recreation expansion on federal lands.  After some good-natured back and forth on just now many candidates the ORIR would develop and present – ten or fifty – the Secretary invited ORIR to return with a list of at least ten sites within 60 days.

    “There is extraordinary opportunity,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, Recreation Vehicle Industry Association President and an ORIR member. “Never before has an industry coalition with all outdoor recreation sectors come together with a unified voice to offer its assistance in improving visitor experiences on America’s public land and waters. Our great outdoors are a unifying force in an era of political divisions, and the outdoor recreation industry stands ready to join forces with Secretary Zinke and the Department of the Interior in providing healthy, active outdoor fun on America’s great outdoors."

    Here's hoping the efforts result in greater snowmobile access in the National Parks and other public lands!

    For more news like this, subscribe to American Snowmobiler and sign up for our FREE e-newsletter!

    Tami Heilemann photos

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