Panel Suggests Privatizing Campgrounds In National Parks

Oct 15, 2019

An Interior Department committee is recommending that the National Park Service privatize campgrounds in national parks and offer services such as WI-FI and food trucks.

The two-page memo, published last month by a subcommittee of Interior's "Made in America" Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee, says that, generally, front-country campgrounds' infrastructure "fails to meet expectations of the contemporary camping market."

"Evidence suggests that occupancy rates at many campgrounds could grow and additional services, from WIFI to utilities, equipment rentals and camp stores, food and extended family sites are desired and would substantially boost net agency revenues, especially when operational costs are transferred to private sector partners," the memo states.

Dave Bratton, founder of Destination Analysts, a tourism research company, says he doesn't think adding food trucks or entertainment is needed to boost park visitation.

"About 40% of millenials tell us in our national research that they have visited a national park or monument in the last 12 months," Bratton said. "You can compare that to baby boomers and that is about 22%-so nearly twice as likely to participate in park activities."

He added that millenials visit national parks for the same reasons as everyone else-"to relax and for the mental health benefits and the chance to be physically active."

The subcommittee suggests piloting its recommendations at five to ten campgrounds.

Jayson O'Neill of the Western Values Project pans the proposal as an attempt to privatize public lands.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Kamila Kudelska, at kkudelsk@uwyo.edu.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.