Commissioner Thomas L. Strickland
National Recreation Lakes Study Commission
1951 Constitution Ave. N.W.
Room 320. S.l.B.
Washington, DC 20240
Dear Commissioner Strickland:
I greatly appreciate the opportunity to submit written comments to your public workshop scheduled for October 14,1998 in Denver, Colorado. I regret my inability to attend due to a prior commitment to be out-of state on that date. We at the Marine Retailers Association of America wish to thank you for your leadership in conducting this workshop and for your willingness to listen to our ideas and concerns. We also greatly appreciate your invitation to be a part of this very important meeting for recreational boating.
I am the Vice Chairman of MRAA, the national trade association of about 3,500 small businesses which sell and service new and used recreational boats, sell accessories, and operate marinas and dry stack storage facilities. I also own Aurora Marine in Denver, Colorado which is the largest Lund dealer in a four state area and I am the President of the Colorado Marine Dealers Association.
MRAA was also pleased to have testified several years ago before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in favor of Senate Bill 1844 on the need for better recreational opportunities on federal lakes and lands and the need to increase recreational opportunities in and around federally managed lakes.
The Commission must recognize the importance of high quality facilities which are key to the enjoyment of these lakes. A framework designed to enhance a public/private partnership between government and business will provide the private investments for marinas, campgrounds, resorts, and other infrastructure needed to attract Americans. The emphasis of a plan to expand Americas outdoor legacy by increasing the quality and quantity of recreational use of federally-managed water projects must rely on private sector investment and must develop a program which would encourage that investment. To achieve this goal, private investors need a long term commitment by the government to the area. This level of support can best be accomplished by using 30 to 50 year lease agreements, clear rights of ownership, reduced annual payments on the lease agreement until the properties are profitable, and favorable financing to the investor willing to make the capital investments and assume the risks of developing new and, many times remote properties.
We believe there has been a pent-up demand for more recreational facilities. More and more people are using federal lakes all the time. In 1984, the Crops of Engineers reported 137 million visitor days at the 463 lakes the Corps manages. In 1995, the agency recorded 205 million visitor days. This is a steady increase in visitation without an increase in the number of facilities, The time has come to help alleviate the potential of congestion on federal lands and lakes by opening more to development. With the proper public policy, this goal can be clearly accomplished at no cost to taxpayers.
In addition, we recommend that a plan be developed which would identify a priority of lakes for development based, in part, on proximity to major population centers. We also recommend areas unknown to the general public. Both plans would increase the economic benefit from increased recreation and tourism.
MRAA also strongly supports a clean water environment. We believe boaters and anglers want to recreate on and in clean water. We recommend that the Commission develop a plan that included protection and enhancement of habitat development.
The major benefits of the creation of a National Recreational Lakes System include: the creation of access to currently inaccessible waters will help disperse the boat population relieving overcrowding and multiple use conflicts; will bring in new recreation and tourism dollars to areas, creating jobs and development; and will create greater opportunities for boaters and anglers to enjoy their recreation.
I would propose that Colorado would be an excellent state to launch a pilot program for the following reasons: Colorado is second only to the state of California in the number of federally managed lakes and reservoirs. There are 108 of these sites in Colorado. Swift action is needed in Colorado to alleviate the problem we have with overcrowding of the few well developed lakes and reservoirs. With the steady increase in population in Colorado, anticipated demand for quality recreation is extremely high. A healthy Colorado economy assures funding form abundant private enterprise. Our population in Colorado is very outdoor recreation oriented and environmentally concerned. I believe Colorado has the right mix of potential facilities, potential private investors, and has one of the finest State Parks Departments in the nation to assist in the management and direction of a pilot project.
This document was found at the National Recreation Lakes Study web site of the Department of the Interior.