Bob Wheeler, CEO of Airstream Inc.

Bob Wheeler, CEO of Airstream Inc.

Camping in America’s national parks and at other federal recreation sites has created indelible memories for generations of Americans.  Yet as the nation’s demography and lifestyles change, overnight stays in our parks and other federal lands have declined even as sales of outdoor equipment and recreation vehicles have grown, the American Recreation Coalition said in an announcement.

Top recreation leaders from the public and private sectors will meet during Great Outdoors Month to discuss ways to sustain the role of these campgrounds as a gateway to life-long experiences in the outdoors.

“National Park Campgrounds of the Future” is being organized by two companies taking an active part in the Centennial of the National Park Service as well as the Great Outdoors Western Campout:  The Coleman Company USA and Airstream Inc.

Bob Wheeler, president of Airstream, will host the session on June 13 at Jackson Lake Lodge in Wyoming. According to Wheeler, “Two thoughtful and experienced recreation leaders will moderate the meeting. Mike Schneider has been a leader in the RV and camping community for more than 30 years involved in publishing and membership organizations and more. And David Vela, currently superintendent of Grand Teton National Park, has been an innovator and advocate for outreach to segments of the American public largely unconnected to our legacy of parks in key roles for the National Park Service at the local, regional and national levels.”

Pat Hittmeier

Pat Hittmeier

The meeting will include presentations on key studies and marketing reports.  Pat Hittmeier, president and CEO of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), will share findings of its 2016 Topline North American Camping Report.  The report showed that more than one million households in North America started camping in 2015 and that African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American representation among new campers closely matches overall population percentages. The KOA report is available at http://koa.uberflip.com/i/654141-2016-north-american-camper-report.

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) will share its new report showing that use of state and private-sector campgrounds has grown in recent years, in contrast to the trend at federal sites. According to RVIA, the discrepancy is attributable to campground design, management and marketing.

Even where national park campground occupancy is high, according to RVIA, guest satisfaction is harmed by campgrounds built to 1960s standards. Many park campgrounds lack showers, Wi-Fi, utility hookups for RVs and “pull-through” sites, food and stores for basic camper needs.

Derrick Crandall, American Recreation Coalition president

Derrick Crandall, American Recreation Coalition president

According to American Recreation Coalition President Derrick Crandall, utilizing existing public investment in campgrounds at federally-managed sites makes great sense. He noted that participants in the Wyoming session will include state park directors that rely on campgrounds to generate substantial portions of their operating budgets.

“There are lessons to be learned and experiences to be shared. National park campgrounds can be a very important gateway to the Great Outdoors for 21st Century Americans — offering economical, inspirational and bonding experiences. Existing legislation keeps campground fees in the collecting parks, whether they are operated by the agency or a concessioner, so as use increases, park budgets will benefit,”  said Crandall.

Crandall explained that many of those who will take part in the June 13 session will be in the area to support the Great Outdoors Western Campout, which will provide up to 20 families selected by western governors the opportunity to enjoy a four-day experience in Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, the Bridger-Teton National Forest and other locations in the Jackson, Wyo., area.

The Campout was conceived by Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, co-winner of the 2015 Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award and chairman of the Western Governors’ Association, which will be holding its summer meeting simultaneously with the campout.

Information on the Great Outdoors Western Campout and governor’s campouts scheduled for June in some 20 states is available at www.greatoutdoorsmonth.org.

Airstream and Coleman will issue a report on the discussions at the session and anticipate that additional meetings on this topic will be held. Interested organizations may make recommendations for consideration by the next federal administration, taking office in January 2017.