Trump Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee Recommends Privatizing Campgrounds

Photo: National Park Service

The Hill reports that an advisory committee recommended to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt that he should privatize campgrounds within national parks, cut benefits for senior visitors, and allow food trucks into Parks as a way to bring increase money coming into the Parks system, according to the panel’s memo.

  • In particular, campgrounds are reported to be “victims” of park infrastructure issues due to the $12 billion maintenance backlog.

Why This Matters:  This recommendation is likely to be extremely divisive — with environmental groups and advocates for seniors arguing that this is likely to hurt low and middle-income Americans and benefit the President’s rich benefactors.  But others argue that states increasingly are turning to private operators for state parks that have also struggled to cover operations through park fees alone.  Privatization can also bring in new recreational opportunities that attract visitors, like zip lines and ropes courses.  The key questions are what would be the “guard rails” to ensure that the public benefits — and can this administration be trusted to do this.  

Seniors Would Lose Benefits

Apparently the Committee recommended that the 50 percent discount for seniors should apply only to base campsite fees and that the Parks should require seniors to pay full price during peak season.  Currently, seniors over 62 can buy for $80 a lifetime pass that entitles them to a 50 percent discount on campgrounds.

Environmental Groups Objected to the Recommendations

Joel Pannell, Associate Director of Sierra Club Outdoors for All, said in a statement,

“Now the Trump administration is trying to pass a fee hike under the radar, and pave the way for full privatization of our national parks,” he said in a statement. “Turning our national parks into profit centers for a select few vendors would rob our public lands of just what makes them special. Hiking fees and limiting discounts for seniors will shut out working families and elders on fixed incomes. We will not allow the embattled Trump administration to turn our national parks into playgrounds for the wealthy and privileged, or permit companies that financially support the Trump campaign to profit from privatization of our public lands. Park lovers and outdoor advocates across the nation will rise up in resistance.”

To Go Deeper: You can read the full recommendation memo here.

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