Summary of
National Recreation Lakes Study Commission Meeting
July 20 and 21, 1998
Washington, D.C.

What you are about to read is testimony presented in support of the privatization, commercialization and motorization of America's public lakes. It has been condensed from the original and emphasis has been added.

The full text of this hearing is available at:  http://www.doi.gov/nrls/980720.htm

The testimony available on this web page will be that of:

 


 

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Introductory statement by Bruce Brown

  ... Bruce, if you could perhaps give us some information and some suggestions on proposed goals.

MR. B. BROWN: I'd be happy to do that, Mr. Vice Chairman.

As I briefly tried to present, there is a tremendous amount of recreation, water-based recreation that takes place at these 1800 federal lakes. However, we don't think that there is quite the understanding and awareness of what that is.

The second there, to document current projected demand for recreation, again a lot of statistics don't exist on what currently exists out there, even in terms of facilities or use or the demand. So we would suggest that be an achievable goal.

The third, to enhance public/private partnership opportunities, is almost a primary -- the primary goal of this Commission because, as I mentioned, the responsibilities of the federal government either having to do that or having the ability to pay to do that don't seem to be likely in the future and therefore we hope that we can develop greater partnerships with other state and county and local government and the private sector.

The fourth goal, to promote conservation of environmental values, was not necessarily spelled out that specifically in the legislation. However, the administration, in entering into this study, felt that that was a very strong objective, and therefore we put it down as one of the key goals of the study.

The fifth, to develop legislation and policy recommendations, will be the results of the study, either in terms of recommendations to modify current administrative policies or, if necessary, to propose legislative reforms.

And, finally, one of the other key charges of the legislation was to evaluate the feasibility of a National Recreation Lake System.

Mr. Vice Chairman, that's the goals as we have suggested.

MR. DAVIES: Thank you.


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MR. D. BROWN: Okay. Derrick Crandall.

MR. CRANDALL: Thank you, and it's a real delight to be here. There are some of us who, I guess, weren't sure exactly when we'd get started, but we certainly are delighted to have this very distinguished group of people charged with looking at that we think is a great opportunity.

Having had some, some involvement heading up the coalition that played a key role in terms of the legislation that created this Commission, I guess I would tell you that there is a broad base of support for what you're all about here, from the recreation, conservation and tourism and other communities that have already taken a stand through public comments and a variety of other kinds of mechanisms.

I'm Derrick Crandall and I'm the president of the American Recreation Coalition, which is a national federation of about 150 different recreation interest groups, including the recreation industry, enthusiast groups and others.

As America changes and becomes more urbanized, as our families and our structures change, I would suggest to you that ways to introduce people to mechanisms to deal with the pressures that build up in their lives are more essential than ever before, and clearly recreation lakes are an ingredient in a broad array of programs by the public and the private sector together that can achieve that.

What I'd like to urge you to do is to think in terms of new paradigms. There will be a temptation to get bogged down in details as you look at this concept of national recreation lakes and the broader issue of how can the Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and other federal agencies do a better job of providing high quality recreation.

I don't think the Congress or the administration expects you to develop a detailed blue print for your work. It's important that you suggest the new paradigm, the new way to think about how to manage these nearly 1800 bodies of waters that can supply more in a compatible way in a win-win kind of a fashion, and we hope that the recreation community can help you.

I would also suggest that, based upon my experience with the President's Commission on Americans Outdoors, it is invaluable to have an array of people that become part of your ongoing process of reaching out. We call them senior advisors, and we look to people like Henry Diamond [noted U.F.O.logist] and Dick Nunis [Chairman, Walt Disney Attractions, represented on the ARC Board of Directors] , and a wide variety of people, many of whom you know, to provide the expertise and also the credibility for your process that I think would be very helpful.

We would urge you, whatever the mechanism is within the constraints of FACA, to find a way to be able to use a group of people from the public and private sector that can provide you expertise as well as help you in terms of the mission that you have before you.

Incidently, when we first met with PCAO, Lawrence Rockefeller  [another noted U.F.O.logist]  came to tell us the story about why he thought ORRRC, the Outdoor Recreations Resources Review Commission, was successful, and he said it had nothing to do with ORRRC. It had everything to do with CORRC. CORRC was the citizens commission that he funded to go in place after ORRRC was completed, to actually carry out and provide the political muscle to implement the recommendations of ORRRC. And I think that's one thing that we probably would offer as advice.

During the President's Commission on Americans Outdoors, we talked about moving beyond the traditional view of just blocks of land that were called parks, and focusing on those blocks of lands as where Americans go, because our data showed conclusively that Americans were now into what we refer to as liner recreation: rivers, trails, byways, greenways, other kinds of things like that.

We talked about the importance of integrating the various levels of government in providing recreation opportunities. We've seen some progress on those kinds of issues. Greenways across this country are blossoming. Scenic byways now. For those of you who were here in June and heard Rodney Slater announce the most recent group of designations of scenic byways, you know that that has really responded well to what is going on. It's a reflection on a system that was already in place, just like the lakes now that are the focus of your Commission. But they need something more. They need an active interpretation program and some final touches to make the experience a high quality one.

We would emphasize that you need to focus on customer, and we'll be glad to meet with you to talk more about the recreation community's research. We do annual research looking at not merely participation, but motivations and satisfactions and barriers to participation, and we think it's terribly important that you use that psychographic information to look at your customers today and your customers tomorrow to understand what's going on.

You will not be operating in a vacuum, nor will the managing agencies for the lakes. It's terribly important that we document the variety of tools that are out there. You focused on fees, and fees are very important. I would emphasize the opportunities to work through other kinds of partnership programs like Wallop Breaux, like the T-21, which is the shorthand for the new highway bill, and the variety of mechanisms that are available under enhancements and scenic byways and recreation trails and a variety of other kinds of mechanism.

What you're dealing with is a new paradigm again in terms of how we manage these lakes. It will not come through the appropriations process. We will never be able to appropriate the kinds of dollars needed to deliver the high quality recreation experience at these places, but that doesn't mean it can't be done.

With your guidance and by being good listeners to the people who will come before you with good ideas, I am convinced that you are going to feel very proud when February 3rd comes around because you will have contributed to raising the consciousness of the American public about this wonderful opportunity to now perhaps in a second life of these bodies of water that have been created we can contribute to the outdoor legacy of this country.

Thank you very much.

MR. D. BROWN: The commissioners, should I ask you any comment?

MR. STRICKLAND: I'm sure we'll have ongoing dialogue, Mr. Crandall, with you, and we appreciate your role in having us all be convened here today.

If you could try and answer in a nutshell why we're here. In other words, what is the largest impediment to recreation on federal lakes? What do you think needs to be fixed?

MR. CRANDALL: I would say that it's the lack of vision and a lack of clear sense of authority on the part of the agencies that are now charged with managing these lakes. They are operating in uncharted waters. As you look at the Bureau of Reclamation, and TVA, and the Corps of Engineers, they are agencies that are trying to redefine themselves for the twenty-first century, and I think this Commission can help do that.

MAYOR SAVAGE: If you had to summarize from the customer satisfaction surveys you have done to date, could you give us two or three indications of what the public's view of the recreational system is today?

MR. CRANDALL: I guess the points I would highlight would be, first, the American public is reasonably satisfied with the availability of their choices in terms of places to go for leisure time. They feel that they have enough parks, and enough places to go. But they are not convinced that when they get to those sites that the sites are providing the experiences that they really seek. They are asking for help in using the outdoors, and it's largely a reflection of the changes in our society.

We are dealing with people who are more urbanized and who live in a -- I guess I used to say Sesame Street, now we have to change it to Fox Network or something. You have to respond to changes in our society. But there is a much more of an expectation of entertainment or help in terms of using the outdoors today than there ever has been. And so we see the lowest satisfaction levels with how federal agencies are dealing with people who are coming, looking for programs and information and help in terms of making their visit to a recreation site a meaningful experience. They are looking for more than just an imagine, a pretty image of a byway that they drive through, or a lake that they camp out by. They are looking for an opportunity to learn, to have their experience something that really allows them to go back with a sense that I really did something that helped me understand better.

And certainly for agencies that are managing these lakes now, there is a win-win there, because the agencies need a
mechanism to communication their natural resource stewardship mission, and so there is a real opportunity there.

The second issue I would suggest is that the American public is not as price sensitive as many federal agencies believe they are. We annually survey, in terms of how people regard what they paid in fees versus what they got in terms of the cost/benefit analysis, their satisfaction with that. And we have consistently found that the American public value their most recent visit to a federal recreation site in the vicinity of 10 to 12 dollars more than they actually paid, and that seems to be holding even in light of a very significant fee increase that the Fee Demonstration Program is bringing about, particularly in national parks and, to some extent, the other three or four major federal land management agencies.  I would highlight those areas.

The other issue that I guess I would make sure we focus on is that we live in a very big country that's undergoing a lot of change, and I think we have a major challenge keeping federal lands, federal waters relevant to an America that's more colorful, more diverse than it has been. The kind of recreation that has traditionally occurred on many of the lakes that we are talking about reflects a segment and an important segment of the American population. But I think it's an opportunity that's incumbent upon us to reach beyond the traditional visitors to parks and forests and Corps facilities and ensure that the lakes of this nation show up on the radar screens of children of color raised in L.A. and Detroit and Chicago and Albany and  everywhere else that they are growing up. And our data suggests that is going to be a major challenge.

MR. DAVIES: Are you saying that the information function may be as important as the infrastructure function?

MR. CRANDALL: I think it's very much true, Rich. I think the -- there are more people locked out of our lakes today by lack  of information than by actual padlocks. 

MR. DAVIES: Okay.

MR. CRANDALL: And then there are other considerations. Obviously transportation is a major concern, how you get from where you're living in Atlanta out to a place where there might be great opportunities, but where -- you know, if your family institution doesn't deliver you to those opportunities, they might as well not exist at all.

MR. LYONS: Derrick, given that, what role, if any, do you see the Commission playing in trying to get the word out, for lack of a better term, about recreation opportunities on federal lakes?

MR. CRANDALL: I think that, in all candor, what we would like to have you consider is an opportunity where there are rewards to federal agencies and partners to federal agencies in communicating those opportunities.

As you know quite well, Jim, the lesson that has been learned by the most skilled federal employees is that as long as you get your money appropriated on an annual cycle and it's appropriated on October 1st of one year and you get that same amount of money no matter how many people come, you're better off actually not encouraging additional visitations because you actually run short of resources, money and people midway through your season if you're too successful in attracting people. 

Now, some game rules have begun to change in that regard, but that's still the name of the game and that's still after 10 or 20 or 30 years in federal service, those are still the rules that an awful lot of very talented employees have learned to play the game under across this country.

So I think, again, you have a bully pulpit. You can talk about who the real customers are. You can talk about measurements of satisfaction. You can talk about the problems that have traditionally hampered the agencies because of OMB restrictions in terms of surveys of customers and understanding who your customers are. There are a lot of opportunities.

But the trick is not to get caught up in the details. You know, we can waste all of your time by coming to you with little problems like OMB. OMB is not really the ill. It's a symptom. It's a -- again, one of the challenges for you will be to look at these bigger issues and create ultimately a sense of ownership in these lakes, the Brier's Ferries of this work, to have people think as highly of those as they do of a Yellowstone or other kinds of well-known institutions, and I believe that can be done.

It's a -- there will be recreation lakes, I'm convinced. I think the public is looking for that, whether we call them a National Recreation Lakes System or not. We will see things like Lanier in Georgia, which become world-class destinations, and you can help facilitate that.

MR. DAVIES: Any other questions?

MS. PREWITT: I just wanted to make a comment.

It's my understanding that the Roper Starch, the new Roper Starch Survey will be out, and you will make a presentation at
the next Commission meeting?

MR. CRANDALL: We would be delighted to do that, and we'd be delighted to work with you, Jana, to figure out who might be best in terms of not only delivering that, but also helping to discuss with the Commission other trends.


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Testimony of Ron Stone

MR. D. BROWN: Ron Stone.

MR. STONE: Ladies and gentlemen of the Commission, my name is Ron Stone. You see before you a self-confessed hydra in that I represent a myriad of water-based recreation interests who are stakeholders in this exercise.

For one, I represent the National Marine Manufacturers Association [represented on the ARC Board of Directors], which is the national trade association for the recreational marine manufacturing industry. Collectively we represent more than 1600 manufacturers of recreational watercraft, marine engines, boat trailers and marine accessories and services.

The Marine Operators Association of America, MOAA, which represents up to 500 marina operators, private marina operators throughout the country is affiliated with us.

I am also industry liaison to the States Organization for Boating Access, SOBA, which is a national nonprofit educational organization for state government agencies, responsible for building and maintaining public boat access.

I'm also privileged to have been past president of the National Boating Federation, which is an amalgamation of more than 2,000 boat and yacht clubs throughout the United States.

We have a deep and abiding interest in the objectives of the National Recreational Lakes Study Commission. Two years ago, we testified before Congress in favor of the creation of this Commission, and the concept of creating a National Recreational Lakes System.

Why did we do that? Because we applaud the recognition by our federal government that recreational boating, fishing and allied recreation have grown dramatically in the past few decades to a point where they deserve to be recognized as a primary use of federally-managed manmade lakes.

Our concern is that our members have grown to the point where we need a dispersal of facilities to thin out overcrowded boat populations at existing facilities. We need this increased recreation opportunity to accessible water.

We want to help cure overcrowding and multiple use conflicts, but we need new opportunities for public access in order to accomplish that objective. We are hopeful that this exercise, this study will pave the way.

We have real concerns, however, based on our participation in brainstorming sessions preceding this meeting. We hope that the Commission will be able to exert constructive influence on federal water resource management agencies who appear to have, to our way of thinking, an entrenched way of thinking about what their missions are and should continue to be. We need a redirection of missions in order to make room for water-based recreation.

We hope the Commission will recommend pragmatic ways of achieving public/private partnerships and public partnerships that were alluded to earlier.

For one thing, we would point out that present concessionaire policies are too restrictive in terms of length, time of leases. Private investors need more time for leases in which to recoup their capital investments. State and local governments similarly look for longer term leases and financial assistance if they are to be expected to invest in maintenance of facilities and boating safety law enforcement on federally-owned properties.

In light of discussion among you this morning about the need to balance water recreation enhancement with the protection of water quality, let me say that you won't find anyone more committed to clean water than the recreational boating public and industry.

Thank you.

MR. DAVIES: Commissioners, questions?

MR. DAVIES: Have you had the opportunity or would you consider submitting a laundry list, if you will, I mean, you mentioned, for instance, length of concession leases. Do you have a list of other issues like that --

MR. STONE: Yes, sir, we do.

MR. DAVIES: Have you submitted it to the staff?

MR. STONE: Yes, we have.

MR. DAVIES: Okay. Anybody else have any questions?


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Testimony of David Gackenbach

MR. D. BROWN: David Gackenbach.

MR. GACKENBACH: Thank you. Good afternoon, Mr. Vice Chairman and Commissioners. I'm Dave Gackenbach, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Forever Resorts and Senior Vice President for Forever Living Products [formerly represented on the ARC Board of Directors] a member of the American recreation Coalition.

I represent the private sector involved in providing water-oriented recreational services to the public in nine lakes across the country, including some Corps of Engineers lakes, Park Service-managed lakes, as well as a couple Water District lakes, which I presume are not under the auspice of this particular study. We also provide some land-based resorts that are not water-oriented.

We're a member of the National Park Hospitality Association [ARC member], which is not present today, but I think probably ought to become involved in this since they do represent other concessionaires in the national parks that have recreation opportunities on federal lakes.

Let me say that the staff that you have is very good to work with. We've dealt with them in a few other areas and have been asked to be involved where we can in this particular study with the Commission providing you input, and we hope that continues. They are a great staff.

We feel you are also right on target with the things you're addressing. We feel it's very important to provide these recreational needs for the public and we stand ready to assist in that manner any way we can.

As you are considering recreational lakes in this first Commission meeting, Congress is in the process, in the final stages of considering and passing new legislation to control concessions in national parks. What they pass will shape and instruct the agency on how it deals with private industry on federal lands within national parks. It will also dictate if true partnerships can exist with the National Park Service, who manage various lakes.

With this legislation, will it make it easier to administer an implement those partnerships or will it choke private industry and the free enterprise system?

May I suggest this Commission look at the proposed legislation as it may set stages for various other agencies and how they deal with concessions also? I think at one point the House was considering requiring other agencies to also follow this proposed legislation. That's not in the cards right now.

One area I understand you will be reviewing in your next Commission meeting is barriers to good partnerships, and I would like to explain one particular area that has been brought up by a lot of those who deal with agencies in managing recreation on public lakes.

Today, the National Park Service, including the lakes they manage, spend thousands of hours micro managing and approving rates the concessionaires charge the public. They study the rates to the point of being detrimental to the private sector in responding to cost increases. The labor wasted in this exercise is costly to the government when the budgets are shrinking. Nonprofessional collateral duty government employees, and I don't fault them, by the way, doing these rate approvals is a major detriment to a partnership and economic feasibility of a lot of operations.

I think it's critical that if true partnerships with the government, the public, and private enterprise are to exist, it must recognize the economic feasibility. That is a key factor. It's therefore important for public agencies to obtain advanced input from private industry before launching into ventures, initiating contracts, spending money on things that may not work and private industry may not be willing to operate.

As a privately-held company, Forever Resorts stands ready to assist in expanding recreational use of the lakes and waterways. It's also important that water quality and the environment in and around these lakes is as clean and as unencumbered as possible. This is not true in some states, I understand. In fact, just recently the State of Kentucky passed a law that will help clean up the lakes in Kentucky where gray water was allowed to be dumped into the lakes. I think it's kind of unusual that it's taken them that long to do it, but I hope any other states that aren't doing it through this Commission are kind of nudged into getting their environmental act cleaned up.

We stand ready to work with you and provide any other further information now or in the future. Thank you.

MR. DAVIES: Questions?

MAYOR SAVAGE: Could you provide an example of the situation about the -- what you just spoke, with federal staff people providing or undertaking a rate adjustment and its impact on the private sector operation?

MR. GACKENBACH: Sure. Anybody that's dealt with the National Park Service, and it's a good program. It was initiated back in the eighties. But it's quite elaborate on approving rates. They actually go through a study analysis of comparable facilities that are not within the national parks. Part of that process was required by the law then existing, which exists today as a matter of fact. It's the law that they're trying to change.

But they will spend hours going to other facilities outside of national parks, looking at facilities, writing down the rates, looking at the portions, trying to determine what would really be a comparable rate so that when a concessioner asks for a particular price increase on something, or a decrease, which doesn't happen much these days, they can take out their sheets and say, "Well, you know, this particular operation, there are seven operations we looked at. Yes, you can charge $2.25 for a hot dog platter." And they get that detailed.

If they don't have information, and this one particular instance in a park, a concession requested a price for a hot dog. They were denied because they couldn't find a comparable who served a hot dog within 100 mile radius.

MAYOR SAVAGE: What is the standard that compels that sort of analysis?

MR. GACKENBACH: It's the Public Law 89-249 that basically spells out that they have -- rates have to be comparable
with similar facilities outside of the federally-managed area. But it's an elaborate process.

MR. DAVIES: So it's a law?

MR. GACKENBACH: Yes, it's a law that specifically deals with concessions just in national parks which, again, is the law that's being presented by Senator Thomas and gone through the House, I believe, and is waiting for Congress to vote on it. I don't think that particular portion of it is being changed. They are still going to use comparability as a basis for rates. But I don't know of any other business in the country that, you know, they actually tell you what you can and can't charge.

MAYOR SAVAGE: Is the concern that the private sector would have an unfair competitive advantage over -- in a public setting over a purely private operation?

MR. GACKENBACH: The -- I think the whole reason it got that elaborate having worked with the National Park Service for 19 years was there were concessionaires that were taking advantage of their particular situation where they had a captive audience, and they were gouging the public. But I think --

MAYOR SAVAGE: The airports.

MR. GACKENBACH: The airports aren't national parks, but they are similar to airports. But you know what? Airports and ballparks cannot be used as comparables because they are not a marina or they're not in an environment like a national park.

MAYOR SAVAGE: Well, they do have a captive audience.

MR. GACKENBACH: They do that, that's for sure. But, you know, I think there was, and rightfully so, I think there were some concessionaires that were charging far too much like ballparks and airports.

MR. DAVIES: Do you have a suggestion in short of having an agency, I guess, make the comparables -- I mean, how can an agency keep that from happening?

MR. GACKENBACH: Well, in this particular Concessions Policy Act, the original -- one of the drafts of that by Senator Thomas was to allow concessionaires to charge what they felt was a comparable rate and what they needed to make their operation economically feasible, and have the park agency go in there, keep an eye on it, review it, and if they got a lot of complaints from the customers or they felt it was high, then they could go in and say, "Hey, you know, we think it's high," and do a little bit of a study to see whether it was or not. That was actually bounced out and it had gone back to what the
original law said was based on comparability.

MAYOR SAVAGE: Isn't there a fundamental assumption here that if someone believes the price is too high they won't make the purchase?

I mean, where does that assumption come into?

MR. GACKENBACH: That doesn't enter into this particular situation.

MAYOR SAVAGE: I mean, in the final analysis --

MR. GACKENBACH: It has validity, I agree with you.

MAYOR SAVAGE: -- the consumer can say, "No, thank you."

MR. GACKENBACH: Correct. The problem with that, and we understand that too, is if you're in Yellowstone and you're 100 miles from the nearest other food facility and you're hungary, you're stuck.

MR. DAVIES: That's the theory.

MR. GACKENBACH: That's one of the theories.

MAYOR SAVAGE: That's poor planning.

MR. GACKENBACH: I won't disagree with you.

MAYOR SAVAGE: I mean, I just think there is sort of a -- it sounds pretty silly to me, and there's obviously -- I don't know much about this, but there is a component here that begs for some aspect of common sense be applied to it, and, you know, it seems like a silly waste of time.

MR. GACKENBACH: Yeah, we're not -- I mean, that's just one of the barriers we felt that is critical enough that people bidding on contracts, if we get to the point that we're talking about, new operations and lakes, it's one of the barriers to making it economically feasible for the operator because if they know that somebody can come in and say, "No, you're not going to charge that for it," they've blown the whole philosophy of what you're proposing to do at that operation and your pro formas that you've done.

MAYOR SAVAGE: It's kind of a funny -- I mean, it's funny that it works for airports because you're generally, you know, three hours from some location before you can eat.

MR. GACKENBACH: Right.

MAYOR SAVAGE: Anyway, enough. I understand.

MR. DAVIES: I have one question. This may be unfair to ask Dave, and maybe Dave Wahus can help.

On federal waters do the pollution standards change state to state, like gray water, dumping sewage out of houseboats and all that, or is it a consistent rule? In other words, can you dump your sewage, your gray water in a Kentucky federal water and not do it in a Tennessee federal water? Does anybody know?

VOICE: I think it varies from state to state.

THE COURT REPORTER: Come to a microphone, please.

MR. GACKENBACH: It's state dictated by the EPA, I believe.

MR. DAVIES: We might want to look at a recommendation about that.

MR. CARTER: The standards that are involved in the marine sanitation --

THE COURT REPORTER: Come to a microphone, please.

MR. CARTER: The standards that involve the heads on boats themselves are standardized through the federal act. Gray water is from the other areas, or varies from state to state.

MR. DAVIES: Sewage versus gray water?

MR. CARTER: Exactly.

MR. DAVIES: All right.

MR. CARTER: Ed Carter again from NASBLA.

MR. DAVIES: Okay, thank you.
 

 


This document was prepared by Wild Wilderness. To learn more about ongoing industry-backed congressional efforts to motorize, commercialize, and privatize America's public lands, contact:

Scott Silver, Executive Director,
Wild Wilderness
248 NW Wilmington Avenue,  Bend  OR 97701
Phone (541) 385-5261    E-mail: ssilver@wildwilderness.org