An annual gathering of leading recreation innovators from the public and private sectors concluded three days of brainstorming and sharing with a report on findings, actions and recommendations to the members of the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation (FICOR).
According to a press release, Partners Outdoors 2013 was held at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Va. Discussions were especially intense as the group sought ways to add quality and quantity to recreation opportunities on federally managed lands and waters even as the agencies and organizations involved were engaged in planning contingencies for sequestration and years of federal agency budget uncertainty.
Participants in Partners Outdoors were decidedly upbeat, buoyed by strong economic and political evidence of public support for federal recreation programs. Recent surveys show remarkable bipartisan support for parks and other recreation sites and the economic importance of outdoor recreation has been freshly established at more than $600 billion per annum, significant nationally as well as in hundreds of communities across the nation.
Three topics were considered during the session: securing dependable funding for recreation programs on federal lands; hosting international visitors to America’s Great Outdoors successfully; and using federal transportation programs effectively to aid recreation.
Among the key conclusions were:
• The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, expiring in December 2014, is of fundamental concern to all national recreation interests. It authorizes the collection and retention of more than $300 million in fees annually.
• An international version of the America the Beautiful Pass could both generate needed revenues and add to the quality of visitor experiences.
• Federal recreation agencies need to strengthen alliances with the departments of defense and veterans affairs.
• Significant gains in visitor experiences and agency revenues can arise from expansion of appropriate services by concessioners and permittees.
• Accessing the Internet from federal lands and improving and linking websites with information about recreation on federally managed lands and waters are very high priorities.
• Transportation is a vital concern of recreation interests – ranging from constructing and maintaining roads and trails to allowing easier access to the Great Outdoors.