ARC “Modernization of Recreation Sites” Plan? RV Storage?

Thanks to a reader for this contribution.. Here is the link (to the Camping with Suzi blog), and below are excerpts:

Any help finding the organization and the report she refers to in her blog post would be appreciated. I did find this, which appears to be a powerpoint from June of this year.

Once again, I have to point out that from personal observation, people camping IN FOREST SERVICE CAMPGROUNDS are a subset of people camping ON FOREST SERVICE LAND. This being elk season, I wish someone would fly a sample of forests and estimate people per acre camping and interview those folks and ask them about their experiences. Another topic for the People’s Research Agenda.

A facility-o-centric view of FS camping, or recreation, for that matter, does not tell the whole story. IMHO.

“In season on-site RV storage” is one of the suggested proposals in the American Recreation Association (ARC) “Modernization of Recreation Sites” plan. The concept is that the U.S. Forest Service would give concessionaires operating Forest Service campgrounds the authority to permit, for a fee, the parking of unoccupied recreational vehicles on an active campsite for an extended period of time. According to industry sources, this would allow campers, especially from urban areas, to travel back and forth without having to haul their rigs each time they want to spent time in the forest. This, according to an ARC representative, would be easier on the environment and reduce fuel consumption. The assumption is both would be a good thing. And getting more people enjoying time in the out-of-doors would be good, too.

According to ARC, the number of people enjoying the out-of-doors, specifically in national forests and grasslands, is steadily declining. Although this representative admits obtaining accurate and comprehensive numbers for the number of people who are enjoying national forests and grasslands is nearly impossible, he suggests the decline is more a function of “working mothers” not having the time or energy to perform the logistics necessary for a family to spend time in the out-of-doors. My response is that’s nonsense!

There are many factors likely influencing the possible decline of people using national forest campgrounds. Deteriorating infrastructure in campgrounds and the ever increasing influence of concessionaires could be reasons. An infrastructure where the vaults are not maintained or there is an absence of drinking water would discourage many potential campers. Fees for having pets in a campground, restrictions on collecting dead and down wood so campers must purchase firewood from the concessionaire, and closing of campgrounds as soon as schools are back in session, voiding the possibility of camping in the less crowded “shoulder” season, are likely to contribute to the reduction in people camping at concessionaire-operated campgrounds. Perhaps ARC and others in the outdoor recreation industry should look at other factors contributing to the alleged decline in national forest and grassland campground occupancy before pointing their finger at the “working mother” or suggesting “in season on-site RV storage” would miraculously improve campground occupancy.

9 thoughts on “ARC “Modernization of Recreation Sites” Plan? RV Storage?”

  1. Whoever floated that crazy idea (storing RVs in USFS campgrounds) should be fired from the organization. No thinking owner of any decent RV would ever consider leaving their valuable RV (and all its contents) sitting unattended in a remote campground for a weekend, let alone for a season. In most areas they would come back to find the rig gone, or demolished or stripped down to the tires!
    The few campsites overseen by contractors that I have used in the past with my RV were not well run or supervised. Security? Ha. As inferred in the post, finding an outhouse that doesn’t cause an upchuck upon entering is hard to find. Expecting 24/7 security in a wooded, remote campground is laughable.

  2. The organization is the American Recreation Coalition, the same outfit that proudly claims credit for inventing Fee Demo. You can read the details of their “modernization” plan in their June, August, and September newsletters at Their meetings have been at the Undersecretary level.

    Interestingly, the latest visitation report from the NVUM project says that their data shows stable visitation and a 15% increase in visits to developed campgrounds:
    “Visitation estimates over the last several years shows that the number of National Forest visits has been largely stable.The number of site visits appears to be on the rise, especially so for Overnight Use Developed Sites and Wilderness. For both of these types of sites, the 2011 visit estimate is more than 15% larger than in 2009.”
    FY2011 National Summary Report at

    So I don’t know where ARC is getting their information about “steadily declining” use, but the agency’s data doesn’t support that conclusion.

    I agree with Sharon that a very significant number of campers are not using developed campgrounds. I am in this category myself, vastly preferring a roadside pullout with plenty of empty space around it to having neighbors on all sides with the attendant loud voices, banging doors, crying children, campfire smoke, fee collectors, etc. A worrisome trend I see is that on Forests that use concessionaires to run their campgrounds, the permit holders put pressure on agency managers to ban camping outside of designated campgrounds. I think that’s a clear sign that if people can avoid the high cost and crowding of developed camping, they will.

  3. Kitty – I think the “steadily declining” claim is based on national park campground figures and may be a product of mixing apples and turnips.
    Ed – From rumors I have heard, the campgrounds that are suggested for “on-site storage” are anything but remote. They are the more profitable campgrounds located near large population centered.

  4. You’d think the policy was already in place due to the lack of enforcement in some Forest Service primitive campgrounds.

    My family get’s together for a reunion on FS land near the west end of Island Park reservoir in Idaho every year. There are times when most of best camping spots are filled with parked trailers left there the locals who use them as free summer cabins that they might only visit once or twice during the summer season.

    There is a supposed limit to the number of consecutive days one can legally leave a rig parked, but the FS chooses not to enforce this policy. Those that do leave their rigs parked for the summer are very lucky that I’m a law abiding citizen, otherwise as I’d be tempted to pull out the bolt cutters, hook their rigs up to my truck, and haul them up a logging road where I’d and leave them parked in very inaccessible locations.

    Heaven help them if they run into someone who, unlike me, doesn’t respect the law…

    • Mike- I have run into that same problem many times, one particular time..I had to drive pretty far in (10 miles or so) to find a dispersed campsite that wasn’t occupied by an empty trailer. Given the gas mileage, there’s a lot of wasted energy of people having to drive by “occupied” sites. Plus often they are the nicest ones. I suppose there isn’t the person power to keep track, plus I don’t know if the fines are enough/ or are enforced enough to change the behavior. Would it require law enforcement folks to be there? Could volunteers monitor overstaying? As a retiree, driving forest roads and taking photos of trailers every couple of weeks sounds like a fun volunteer op…

      What do others know about this?

  5. CamperSuzie, that is even worse for security. When I still owned and used my RV, I often worried about leaving it alone and unattended for just a few hours while I fished or visited elsewhere. A very stupid idea. And guess who would be sued for damages for any damage or destruction or loss? The deep-pockets, of course.

  6. My problem with this is that if there is such a need/demand for storage, why not supply it off FS land in some super-efficient guarded storage lot? Then people drive to say, Summit County Storage, pick up their camper and then head up to the Forest; the community benefits and everyone benefits. Why does it have to be on the FS land?


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