End-of-Year Update

Happy Holidays

The shortage of qualified RV service and repair people has plagued the industry for years. Five years ago a certification process emerged for RV inspectors (NRVIA). The inspection industry produced enough certified professionals that the trade slowly spread across the country giving RV buyers a way to avoid purchasing a lemon. With the huge number of manufacturer’s recalls for new RVs, the inspection process is a necessity before buying new or used RVs.

RV Training Academy

Now, all we need are more qualified technicians to fix the problems and keep us on the road. To the rescue came the National RV Training Academy (NRVTA). Located in Athens, Texas, the first class graduated in November 2019.

Since opening, 419 students have completed training at the academy, of which 71 chose to take the test and passed the exam to become registered RV technicians with the RV Industry Association (RVIA) and RV Dealers Association (RVDA). Another 13 students completed five weeks of training and passed the certified exam.

The breakdown of students attending various one-week classes included:

  • RV Basic Maintenance and Service – 236 students
  • Air Conditioning & Heat Pumps – 53 students
  • RV Refrigerators – 38 students
  • Water Heaters & Furnaces – 47 students
  • RV Exteriors & Hydraulics – 45 students

“We are pleased with our first-year results,” said NRVTA Director Terry Cooper. “With the RV industry clamoring for trained technicians, we feel our courses are helping alleviate the critical need for technicians.

This opens a new high-paying employment opportunity. Cooper noted that some RV dealers are utilizing inspectors to evaluate new RVs coming onto their lots from manufacturers. The inspectors are able to pass along a list of items that need to be addressed to make sure the RV is in proper working order. This allows dealers to keep a technician in the shop repairing RVs instead of conducting inspections.

“I believe the tide is turning and America is waking up to the need for trained technicians and the myriad of opportunities available to people who complete that training,” said Cooper.

The Plan to Privatize National Parks

The National Park Service’s “Made in America” Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee is mulling proposals to privatize national park campgrounds and further commercialize the parks with expanded Wi-Fi service, food trucks and even Amazon deliveries at tourist camp sites.

Earlier this year electric bicycles were allowed to be used for the first time on federal trails in national wildlife refuges and national parks, a move said to create “opportunities to explore areas of the great outdoors that were before unreachable.”

Electric bikes are hardly the only new concession the committee is considering right now. Others include digital services, utilities, flushable toilets, hot and cold showers, equipment rentals, mobile camp stores, food trucks, kayaks and overnight tent rentals.

Leaders of the Committee say these changes could make America’s national parks more attractive to a digitally minded younger generation and improve the quality of National Park Service facilities amid a huge maintenance backlog.

As part of its plan, the committee calls for blacking out senior discounts at park campgrounds during peak holiday seasons.

“Our recommendations allow people to opt for additional costs if they want, for example, Amazon deliveries at a particular campsite,” said Derrick Crandall, vice-chairman of the committee and a counselor with the nonprofit National Park Hospitality Association. “We want to let Americans make their own decisions in the marketplace.”

But the group’s proposals face angry opposition from conservation organizations and senior citizen advocates, who call them a transfer of public assets to private industry, including businesses led by executives appointed to the Outdoor Advisory Committee.

The proposal to restrict senior discounts drew a sharp response from Bill Sweeney, vice- president of government affairs at AARP.

“This proposal is an insulting attempt to push older Americans out of our national parks,” he said. “The cost of a senior pass jumped in recent years from $10 to $80, and this proposal would further hurt older Americans who want to visit national parks. Enough is enough.”

Members of the Committee were somewhat surprised by the backlash, especially from groups representing retirees and the elderly.

 “If we’d known there’d be a big pushback to proposed blackouts on senior discounts, we might have dropped that off the list. All we’re saying is that it may not make sense on peak days like July 4 weekend to let seniors compete with a family with kids for a campsite.”

Both the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service continue to require that campgrounds run by concessionaires provide 50% discounts to seniors with passes. But that delicate peace among competing interests could be upended.

They acknowledged there may be a market for the bells and whistles the committee has proposed. “But there are a lot of other folks who will feel displaced and priced out.”

Each year, roughly 1 million Americans buy senior passes, which allow people 62 and older to get free access to national parks and other federal recreation sites, and various discounts inside those public lands. In 2017, the cost of a lifetime senior pass jumped from $10 to $80, and now the committee is mulling limitations to their uses.

“Do those families love Grandma and Grandpa and their discount passes? You bet! Senior discounts are the third rail of camping in national parks — don’t touch them!”

There’s a new emphasis on creating more tourist amenities and opportunities in the most valuable and vulnerable public land in the country, much of it in the West. This includes national parks such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Zion and Grand Canyon, among others.

 “Our solution to the problems facing the park service is to look at enlisting private capital to wipe out the massive deferred maintenance backlog — and introduce the kinds of services that today’s campers seek,” the Committee said. “Certainly, what we’ve been doing for the past 30 years is not working well.”

But Jeffrey Jenkins, a professor of public lands at UC Merced, suggests “the free-market impetus behind the push toward tourism-based economies within national parks is a slippery slope.”

“The moment you try to accommodate existing crowds,” he said, “you facilitate more demand and use in federal land originally intended to serve as a baseline of the American frontier experience.

“Some would say the future is already here,” he added. “Twice as many people are employed by concessionaires at Yosemite than by the National Park Service.”

Since this plan was exposed to the public, the response has been overwhelmingly negative. The chances are good this may never be implemented.

Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act

Legislation waiting in the queue right now is a solution worth considering.

The Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act would:

  • Establish a federal fund in the U.S. Treasury—the National Park Service and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund—to address the maintenance backlog at sites managed by the National Park Service (NPS), other public lands agencies, and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE).
  • Direct royalties from energy development on federal lands and waters into the fund, up to $1.3 billion per year for five years. (Receipts already obligated by law to other programs would not be diverted to the new fund.) Revenue would break down as follows:

80 percent for the NPS

10 percent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) National Wildlife Refuge.

5 percent for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

5 percent for the BIE

  • Prohibit funds from being used for land acquisition, employee bonuses, or to replace discretionary funding for facility operations and maintenance needs.

Bill Status

The House bill was referred to the Natural Resources and the Education and Labor committees. Its Senate companion bill was referred to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

For a broader overview, visit https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/projects/restore-americas-parks/legislation

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