Lagging maintenance, difficult access and a lack of visitors will likely spell the end of Tent Peg Group Campground, one of four San Bernardino National Forest campgrounds and picnic sites in California targeted for closure over the next five years, according to the Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.
Under the gun to save money, ranger districts across the country have performed sweeping recreation assessments to reshape facilities to fit shifting interests among visitors and get rid of what doesn’t work anymore.
In the San Bernardino and Cleveland national forests, officials want to boost overnight fees to pay for improvements and maintenance at recreation areas that remain open. They also propose seasonal closures in some spots, a greater reliance on volunteers and renovation of some camp areas to cater to prime users, such as off-highway vehicle enthusiasts.
Other sites targeted for closure are Crest Park Picnic Area off Highway 18 near Rimforest, Big Pine Equestrian Group Campground northwest of Big Bear Lake and Fuller Mill Creek Picnic Area off Highway 243 near Idyllwild. The Cleveland National Forest, which has fewer visitors, does not plan any closures.
“We’re under direction … to cut costs because the budget is getting lean,” said Kermit Johansson, project coordinator for the San Bernardino National Forest. “We’re going back and reviewing every site, looking at whether it’s worth keeping open; do people use it, is it something the public wants now?”
The driving force behind the five-year Recreation Facility Analysis is $346 million in postponed upkeep nationwide, ranging from crumbling parking lots to aging, malodorous vault toilets. Officials hope the changes will eliminate most of the backlog by 2020.
This is the first comprehensive review of the 155 national forests and grasslands across the country, said Jim Bedwell, director of recreation, heritage and volunteer resources for the Forest Service.
Many of the recreation areas date to the 1930s and don’t reflect today’s most popular activities, which have changed from tent camping and long stays to mountain bikes and day use, he said.
“It’s eliminating those things that are very costly, that are impacting the environment or are not well-utilized so we can use those funds to meet the new demands,” Bedwell said.