The Great American Outdoors Act is good news for RVers because it will bring a long-needed massive overhaul of the often crumbling National Parks system infrastructure.
In a rare bipartisan move, the Great American Outdoors Act passed both houses of Congress and was just signed into law by President Trump.
What’s in the Great American Outdoors Act?
The act will bring about maintenance overhaul to roads, campgrounds and services by infusing $9.5 billion into the National Park Service, US Forest Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt stated that this is the cornerstone of the future of the National Park system.
The funds will be used to conserve lands and upgrade infrastructure. It is a breath of fresh air into the 100- year- old system.
How will the funds be spent or spread across 419 national parks?
The National Park system will receive $6.5 billion over 5 years —1.3 billion a year to fix infrastructure, purchase private lands, and provide entry to hard-to-access land. This has been an embarrassing issue for years and we've aggressively reported on the problems.
The US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the Fish & Wildlife Service will receive $3 Billion.
If you are an RVer who enjoys the National Park system or boondocks on BLM land, I probably just got your attention.
Today’s National Park RV Experience
The National Park System greets over 325 million visitors a year. If you have recently visited a National Park, you may have a few stories—both the good and the bad.
You may have arrived to find some of the historic buildings closed for lack of repair. Or roads and bridges barely passable. Visitor’s Centers closed—and that is before you even reach your campsite.
Once at your National Park RV site, you find disrepair. Many of the National Park campgrounds were built in the 1950s and '60s and do not meet today's RVs' needs. During your camping experience, you realize that the National Parks’ entry and camping fees are probably not enough funds to maintain the park—and you were right.
The National Parks overhaul from the Great Outdoors Act will begin the process of fixing the negative experience of deferred maintenance.
An Example: Two Favorite Parks for RVers
Many media reviews of the Great American Outdoors Act mention two specific National Parks—Yosemite and Glacier National Parks. It is no doubt that both parks are favorites for RVers.
The media highlighted both Yosemite and Glacier because they are at the top of the NPS deferred maintenance list of those parks and campgrounds that need immediate assistance. They are parks that greet millions of visitors and often have booked-out campsites, but funds have not been available to correct problems that have troubled campers for years.
If you have recently visited, you may have noticed that both parks are in dire need of repair. They each have a long list that includes closed roads and trails, outdated facilities, and long-neglected campsites. It is estimated that Yosemite National Park needs $118 Million in repairs, including wastewater treatment, rehabilitation of roads, and yes…campgrounds. Glacier needs $100 Million.
The Great Outdoors Act will also help National Forest and BLM Land
With an infusion of $3 Billion in funding, the National Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management will also be able to repair similar issues on the public lands they administer.
The National Forest System hosts 170 million visitors a year. The Great American Outdoors Act will bring new trails, education opportunities, and adventure options to the 193 million acres of public lands.
Visitor's centers will be repaired or built, trails will be fixed, and water and electrical systems will be upgraded. Transportation systems will be updated or built.
The Community Impact of the Great American Outdoors Act
As an RVer, you know that the towns and communities around a National Park often prosper from park visitation. If you can not book an RV site within the park, you often look to private campgrounds in the surrounding community. You shop and often enjoy local food in area restaurants.
It is forecasted that the Great American Outdoors Act will bring additional visitors to the improved areas, an increase in revenue, and jobs. It will lift the local economy and improve your overall experience too.
Future Expectations from the National Parks overhaul
How long will it take for funding to arrive and improvements to begin? Interior Secretary Bernhardt stated that visitors may start to see improvements as early as October 2020.
The first step is to get estimates and hire contractors to begin projects. Until then, the funds will gain interest in government accounts. The Great American Outdoors Act could be just the beginning of new support for our public lands and park systems. As an RVer and outdoor enthusiast, you can help too.
The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has fostered 147,000 messages to Congress members over the past two years. If you have a love for the National Parks system, check out their site and find ways to help. Additional bills are waiting at the House of Representatives that can also contain funding for our beautiful parks and public lands.
As RVers, we will witness the re-building of America’s great National Parks and public lands.