Outdoor recreation industry spokesmen met with U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Monday (April 24), capping a full day of discussions with Trump administration officials at meetings organized by the 6-month-old Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable (ORIR).
The ORIR meetings, involving elements of the RV, marine, snowmobile, motorcycle, firearm, archery, gear and apparel sectors among others, began early in the day at a lodge in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and concluded 12 hours later in the office of new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in downtown Washington, D.C.
Zinke had originally planned to spend the day with members of the newly formed recreation coalition in the Blue Ridge Mountain park, but had to reset schedules due to travel challenges. Yet, the day worked out well, according to spokesmen for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) and the American Recreation Coalition (ARC).
“It was an inspiring vision that Secretary Zinke shared with the Roundtable last night,” said RVIA President Frank Hugelmeyer, who has played a leading role in establishing the ORIR. “It was like he was on the same wavelength as all of us where we’re saying we need to have a better consumer experience and with the public land managers taking that customer relationship much more seriously. He was talking about increasing access, and taking advantage of lost revenue opportunities to reduce the infrastructure backlogs and modernize the parks.
“So, he spent the first 40 minutes of our 90-minute meeting just really framing out his vision and I can tell you I’m really inspired by where the Interior Department appears to be heading.”
The potential benefit for the recreation vehicle industry as a key element within the outdoor coalition, he added, is an expanded inventory of public park sites at a time when the RV sector is demonstrating major growth.
“Our main goal is to take the Eisenhower-era infrastructure and get it ready for a 21st century consumer,” Hugelmeyer told RVBUSINESS.com. “That means modernizing the public campgrounds so that they can better serve the customers who have bought brand new RVs. And when we see a significant influx of new RV buyers, we need more inventory of places for people to go, particularly at the iconic places that everyone dreams of going.
“So, the Department of the Interior, which manages 40% of all the lands in the country, is a critical partner for the RV industry to make sure there’s enough access with roads and bridges in good condition and that the campgrounds meet the needs of a 21st century RVer.”
This, he noted, is in addition to the ongoing role of thousands of private park operators from coast to coast.
In his meeting, Zinke provided an overview of his design for a major departmental reorganization, which he described as the “biggest in 100 years,” and he indicated that private-public partnerships should play a key role in that next phase, according to an ARC release. The secretary, in turn, said he’s eager to enlist the support of the recreation community in the upcoming transformation.
Participating in the day’s session on behalf of the federal government were the Interior Department’s Senior White House Liaison Doug Domenech, Special Assistant to the Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Virginia Johnson, acting National Park Service (NPS) Director Mike Reynolds and Forest Service Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon.
Among those sitting down later in the day with Zinke, a former Montana congressman appointed to his new position in the first phase of the Trump administration, were key members of his team plus the American Recreation Coalition’s Derrick Crandall; BoatU.S.’s Chris Edmonston; Delaware North’s Jim Houser; RVIA’s Hugelmeyer; Bass Pro’s Martin MacDonald; the Archery Trade Association’s Jay McAninch; the American Sportfishing Association’s Mike Nussman; the Outdoor Industry Association’s Amy Roberts; the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s Nicole Vasilaros; Polaris’ Paul Vitrano; and Simms Fishing’s K.C. Walsh.