WASHINGTON – More than a dozen Arkansas River campgrounds could benefit under legislation proposed by Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark.
Boozman and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., have teamed up to add the Army Corps of Engineers to a recreation fee program that has helped spruce up recreational facilities on federal lands from Alaska to Virginia.
“This legislation would result in millions of dollars of annual reinvestment to Arkansas recreational facilities,” Boozman said.
In 2004, Congress approved the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act to enable land management agencies to retain and spend recreation fees where they were collected.
The law covered five federal agencies that oversee most of the nation’s federal lands but did not include the Army Corps of
Engineers. The omission was particularly glaring for Arkansas, where the Army Corps of Engineers has more than two dozen recreation areas along the Arkansas River, as well as by lakes in the Ozarks and in southwestern Arkansas.
In Arkansas, more than $4.2 million was collected during the last fiscal year at Corps recreation facilities.
The new legislation would make it so those funds are used to maintain and improve the facilities in the state, Boozman said.
“This will help maintain and improve facilities that people use in the Natural State and continue attracting people to these sites,” he said.
A 2009 report on the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act found the recreation fees enabled improvements to visitor services and facilities on federal lands across the nation.
There were more than half a billion visits to federal recreation lands in 2008, which generated over $253 million in recreation fees, according to the report.
The report also touted the “America the Beautiful” inter-agency recreational pass that launched in 2007. About 760,000 of the passes were sold in 2008 generating nearly $2.9 million.
Boozman said his legislation would enable the Corps to participate in the America the Beautiful Pass program to allow customers an alternative payment option at sites where entrance or amenity fees are charged. It would also allow the Corps to distribute military passes.
“The Corps currently honors the pass but isn’t allowed to distribute them. Providing the ability for the Corps to offer passes to customers is a commonsense solution that will encourage continued use of federal recreation sites,” Boozman said.
Boozman and Merkley are members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
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