The National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD) is holding its 2011 national conference this week at Custer State Park in South Dakota.
NASPD’s event takes on added significance this year because members will be voting on a proposal to extend full NASPD membership to the National Association of RV parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
The NASPD vote comes on the heels of an agreement announced July 8 to extend free membership in ARVC to NASPD members on a trial basis for the remainder of this year.
The NASPD members will discuss ARVC state park memberships today between 10 a.m. and noon Mountain Time.
Earlier this summer, Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) CEO Jim Rogers visited with leaders in Washington, D.C., who share his interest in improving America’s outdoor recreation.
Roger’s message: KOA’s nearly half-century of camping, guest service and outdoor recreation experience is a valuable resource for our country’s public agencies and their guests. Rogers believes that a collaborative effort between public agencies and the private sector is a necessary step toward achieving national outdoor recreation and healthy lifestyle goals, according to a KOA news release.
Rogers’ meetings in the nation’s capital were held to increase dialog about potential ways to enhance the outdoor recreation experience across America and are an example of KOA’s goals to provide families with fun, healthy and memorable outdoor recreation experiences.
“KOA is looking for public recreation and park leaders who want to share campground management expertise to add revenue-generating features and better services for campers,” said Rogers. “KOA has been sharing its campground management learnings and innovations for nearly 50 years. And, considering the significant future challenges for public campground funding, it seems appropriate for us to reach out to our public sector partners to discuss ways we can work together.”
“At KOA, we look at trends, such as the leisure activities of the Baby Boomer generation and we are investigating ways to engage America’s fast-growing, ethnic populations in outdoor activities. We’re optimistic that 44% of campers today are planning to get outdoors and go camping more in the near future. Both public and private outdoor recreation proponents can plan wisely, to give outdoor enthusiasts what they’re looking for and motivate others to get outside,” said Rogers.
Rogers shared several of KOA’s key strategies for engaging people in outdoor activities, including: connecting with youth; keeping programs simple, low-cost and fun; creating experiences that people remember and want to repeat; and using innovative technologies to help connect people with the outdoors.
Rogers met with key staffer James Hague, of Sen. Mark Udall’s, D-Colo., office. Udall is co-chairman of the bipartisan Senate Outdoor Recreation Caucus, which promotes healthy, active lifestyles and fosters an appreciation of America’s outdoors, through many outdoor activities, including camping.
The message for U.S. states and public agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is that KOA continues to demonstrate successful strategies for engaging families in outdoor recreation and that KOA’s private sector experience can be a valuable resource for public agencies with parallel goals.
Rogers also met with former Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, a long-time champion of outdoor recreation, to discuss the importance of making recreation on public lands a national priority, again using the private sector model as a key resource for enhancing public programs by incorporating ways to provide better, guest-oriented service, among other methods.
Assisting Jim was Bruce Ward, who serves as a consultant to KOA. He is the former president of the American Hiking Society, founder and former executive director of the Continental Divide Trail Alliance and founder and president of Choose Outdoors, a coalition of outdoor recreation interests.
“Now, more than ever, it is critical we join forces to develop a 21st century vision for outdoor recreation in America,” said Ward. “The stakes are high: the literal and figurative health of our country is at great risk. We must step forward and work together toward substantive and innovative solutions to preserve and expand our recreation legacy.”
Rogers and Chris Fairlee, KOA assistant vice president of system development, will represent KOA at next week’s meeting of the National Association of State Park Directors in Santa Fe, N.M., where KOA is a sponsor. Rogers will speak about ways state parks can achieve sustainability through utilizing lessons learned by KOA in the camping business. KOA will share a booth at the meeting with the Boy Scouts of America, where Rogers is president of the Western Region and recent recipient of the group’s Silver Antelope Award.
A brand new survey of state parks by the National Association of State Park Directors has some very encouraging news for the camping and RV industry.
For 28 state park systems reporting on camping activity for calendar year 2009, all but one reported an increase in camping. Hawaii was the sole exception – and the state has experienced a very significant drop in tourism. The average increase in campground stays for 2009 over 2008 for the 28 states was 7.38%, according to a preliminary report issued by Philip McKnelly, NASPD executive director.
The same states also reported a significant increase in overall state park visitations with just two states — New Jersey and Arkansas — reporting declines. The overall increase in visits for 2009 was 6.94%.