USFS dumping its most profitable campgrounds
Subject: USFS dumping its most profitable campgrounds
Date: May 27, 2007 8:58:51 AM PDT
The USFS is rapidly moving to privatize the operation of its most popular, highest revenue producing, campgrounds. Less-developed campgrounds and those incapable to producing a positive revenue stream will be closed or their seasons of operation severely curtailed. Those facilities that will be privatized will in many cases be heavily developed by the concessionaire in an effort to maximize revenues.
Nothing I've just said is new, as you will see below. What's new is that the pace of this privatization / commercialization has accelerated to the point where it is possible to see the process occurring on a almost daily basis.
Pasted below are newspaper articles published in the past two days. One is from Arkansas, the other from Georgia. They are explicit and they should serve as a warning to everyone.
Neither, however, mentions the Recreation Site Facility Master Planning Process --- the process now taking place nationwide and threatening to bring privatization, outsourcing, decommissioning, and/or shorter seasons of operation of your favorite Forest Service campground no matter where you live. http://www.wildwilderness.org/content/view/683/58/
Here's the warning we offered in April 2005
If you currently hike, bike, hunt, fish, camp, float,
bird, ride, climb, swim or engage in any other form of
outdoor recreation on National Forest managed
pubic-lands, the appended article from today's
Oregonian is a MUST READ. It is more than a 'MUST
READ'... it deserves ACTION.
Simply stated, opportunities to enjoy your public
lands are about to be severely limited. The USFS will,
in the months ahead, begin to close many of the places
you now enjoy. They will be selling those resources
they no longer intend to maintain. They will be
privatizing those sites concessionaires wish to
operate. They will be "improving" the places they
choose to keep and doing so in order to maximize
revenue collection and to better cater to a new
customer base they hope to lure to the forests. They
intend to cater to an entirely new class of forest
users ... the kind that expect their entertainment
pre-packaged, neatly presented and easily purchased.
The good news is that Congress is none too pleased with what the Forest Service is doing.
--- Begin Quoted ---
May 26, 2007
Forest Service Wants To Make Campgrounds Privately Operated
By The Associated Press
LITTLE ROCK -- The U.S. Forest Service would like to allow private operation of seven campgrounds and a group-use facility in the Ouachita National Forest, a move it says will better serve the public.
"Our capacity to provide services to the public is declining," said Tim Oosterhous, recreation program manager for the Forest Service. "This is basically a cost-saving measure for us."
Oosterhous said the Forest Service will still run the other 52 sites in the Ouachita National Forest -- he said the eight sites chosen for private operation are the forest's biggest money makers, bringing in $280,000 every three years.
Oosterhous said private concessionaires can offer the public more services. For example, no vendors or canoe-rental businesses currently operate in the Ouachita National Forest, but concessionaires could provide such options.
A reduction in services is likely at the eight sites if the Forest Service can't find enough people to operate them.
"We don't foresee any changes in 2007," Oosterhous said. "If we didn't receive any bids by 2008, we might be limiting the operation season for some sites. A lot of variables will come into play, and we're not to that point yet."
Two of the campgrounds slated for private operation are in Oklahoma.
In the Ozark National Forest, two of the 21 campgrounds are concession operations -- Cove Lake and White Rock campgrounds.
At Buffalo National River, the chief ranger, Bob Maguire, said 24 concessionaires operate on park property. But he said park officials haven't really considered having private individuals operate campgrounds.
"I would think if there was an interest in operating a campground, people would develop campgrounds outside the park, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of them developing outside the park."
Ouachita Forest officials said they performed a study to make sure the eight areas selected for private operation would be profitable.
"We know if we put one of our smaller, more primitive campgrounds that only generates $2,000 or $3,000 each year when operating costs are $10,000 each year, interest would be pretty nonexistent," Oosterhous said. "We selected the sites that would provide the most benefit to the public and the government for concessioning and in addition, the sites that would be most attractive for the potential concessionaires."
-- Begin Second Article --
May 25, 2007
Forest Service areas signed over to concessionaire
By Rob Moore
Several U.S. Forest Service recreation areas are under new management.
Chattahoochee Management Inc., a for-profit corporation in Clayton, is taking over day-to-day management of Lake Russell boat ramp, campground and beach and Nancytown Day Use Area in Mt. Airy; Panther Creek in Turnerville; and Andrews Cove, Low Gap and Dukes Creek in White County.
Janice Miller, recreation supervisor for the southern portion of the Chattooga River Ranger District, and about 10 others spent much of the day Tuesday getting the Lake Russell area ready for Memorial Day weekend.
"A little bit of everybody from across the zone is here - recreation and some fire folks," Miller said from the B Loop of the Lake Russell Campground on Tuesday.
"We would rather have done it last week, but everybody was out on fires and doing other stuff," she said.
The new management concessionaire is no stranger to the U.S. Forest Service.
Incorporating partner Donald R. Lovell of Clayton is a former USFS employee who was assigned to the Tallulah Ranger District before retirement, so he is familiar with the recreation areas the company will be managing, Miller said. Lovell's partner in management is John A. Widgery of Tiger.
"It's still going to be Forest Service sites," Miller said. "They'll get a certain percentage of it for maintenance and we'll maintain ownership and provide certain things as landlord. They'll do all the day-to-day maintenance and supplies."
One immediate change visitors to some of the recreation areas will notice is the return of user fees. A fee will be charged for each vehicle using designated areas.
"There's going to be fees at the [Lake Russell] boat ramp again, the Nancytown Day Use Area, Dukes Creek and Panther Creek," Miller said.
Another change will be the installation of signs providing contact information for the managing concessionaire.
"There will be some signs out there to let them know to contact CMI if there is a problem, or if they'd like to leave a courtesy note, for instance, if the bathrooms are extra clean," Miller said.
One change visitors will need to remember is that checks for reservation and use of facilities now will be made out to Chattahoochee Management Inc., not the U.S. Forest Service.
"People are so used to making their checks out to the Forest Service," Miller said. "They will definitely have to make a conscious effort to write their checks out to CMI."
Asked if seasons will change for campgrounds in the area, Miller said she expects them to.
"They could very well change," she said. "At that time, they'll make notification to the newspaper."
While the B Loop of Lake Russell Campground will reopen this year, no major changes are planned at the White County recreation areas.
"Really, it's business as usual over there," Miller said.
New bathrooms have been installed at the Nancytown Group Area, as well as at Dukes Creek.
"We're trying to get back in the business of giving people what they wanted - or what they want in recreation," Miller said.
Fees for groups using the Nancytown Group Area, which remains under USFS management, will remain at $35 for one to 25 people and $70 for 26-74 people.
Anna Ruby Falls in White County also remains under Forest Service management at this time, she said.
The Chattooga River Ranger District is a combination of the former Chattooga Ranger District and Tallulah Ranger District.
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