WiFi, Amazon and food trucks: Trump team’s vision for national parks

As they open parks for businesses, advisers propose cutting seniors 50% discounts during peak seasons.

 

Trump administration advisers envision WiFi, food trucks and Amazon deliveries in national park campgrounds. With WiFi, selfies can be quickly uploaded from the edge of the Grand Canyon.

This article was originally published by the Guardian and is republished here with permission.

A team of Trump administration advisers – consisting mostly of appointees from the private industry – are urging “modernization” of national park campgrounds, with a vision of food trucks, WiFi and even Amazon deliveries.

“Our recommendations would allow people to opt for additional costs if they want, for example, Amazon deliveries at a particular campsite,” Derrick Crandall, vice-chairman of the Made in America Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee, told the Los Angeles Times. “We want to let Americans make their own decisions in the marketplace.”

The committee published its recommendations in a letter to the Interior Department last month.

National park campgrounds are just one of many government resources that Trump has sought to privatize, including the U.S. Postal Service and infrastructure like airports and freeways.

The White House wants to reduce spending on the National Park Service by 15%, or $481 million, even as the service has said it is facing a more than $11 billion maintenance backlog.

Crandall is counselor for the National Park Hospitality Association, which represents businesses that provide food, retail and other services in parks. Other committee members include executives from Aramark and Delaware North, which both have contracts to operate concessions at national parks, according to the Washington Post, as well as the founder of Bass Pro Shops and the CEOs of Choice Hotels International and Kampgrounds of America.

The committee said there is “broad consensus” that the campground system operated by federal employees has “inadequate and outmoded visitor infrastructure” and needs more funding.

“Overall capacity has not kept up with growth and changes in camping demand, and the infrastructure that does exist, with few exceptions, fails to meet expectations of the contemporary camping market,” the group said, calling U.S. national campgrounds an “underperforming asset.”

“Evidence suggests that occupancy rates at many campgrounds could grow and additional services, from WiFi to utilities, equipment rentals and camp stores, food and extended family sites are desired and would substantially boost net agency revenues, especially when operational costs are transferred to private sector partners,” the committee added.

The committee would also prohibit seniors from using 50% discounts on campsites during “peak season periods,” like Fourth of July.

National Park Service spokeswoman Stephanie Loeb said the panel was terminated last week and that “no action has been taken on the committee’s recommendations, and once the report is fully reviewed, we will respond as appropriate.”

This story is published with the Guardian as part of their two-year series, This Land is Your Land, examining the threats facing America’s public lands, with support from the Society of Environmental Journalists.

Emily Holden is an environment reporter for Guardian US. Email High Country News at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor.

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