North Country
5:30 am
Fri October 4, 2013

Federal Shutdown Expands To Privately Run Campgrounds In National Forests

Campsites throughout the Sugarloaf I and II campgrounds in The White Mountain National Forest were reserved by campers hoping to enjoy the foliage. But the sites will soon be closed, a federal official says. Photo by Chris Jensen for NHPR
Different, broadcast version

The shutdown of the federal government is expanding to include privately run campgrounds in national forests across the country, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service said late Thursday.

“We are in the process of shutting these operations down at facilities across the country due to the lapse in funding,” wrote spokesman Leo Kay in an e-mail. “Some closures have already taken place while others are still in progress.”

That is expected to include twenty-two campgrounds in The White Mountain National Forest operated by Pro Sports Inc. of Campton.

However Kent Tower, the owner of Pro Sports, said he has not yet been told to close and expects to be open this weekend. The campgrounds were scheduled to close October 14th.

The closings are unwarranted because the campgrounds are operated by private businesses that do not need federal help, said Marily Reese, the executive director of the National Forest Recreation Association. It represents about 150 companies nationwide that operate campgrounds in national forests.

“It is a huge impact to our business owners for this loss of business and it is just a heartbreaking, heartbreaking result for the public and there is really no reason because these sites don’t require federal funding,” she said in an interview.

Photo by Chris Jensen for NHPR

She said the closing is puzzling because in previous shutdowns the campground operators were allowed to remain open.

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Kay said the decision to close campgrounds in the national forests is consistent with the closing of national parks but he declined to answer additional questions.

National parks and national forests are different.

A national park typically has limited access and can be closed to the public.

But national forests, such as The White Mountain National Forest, are laced with public highways.  So, hiking and touring remain possible.

Reese says she doesn’t understand why the government would close the privately run campgrounds unless it hoped to anger the public and bring more pressure on Congress to resolve the problem.

“It seems to be a way to make a point,” she said.

The Forest Service’s Kay said he would not comment on such speculation.

While there is some debate about the reason for the closings campground owners agree they’re going to take a financial loss, said Warren Meyer who heads Recreation Resource Management based in Phoenix. It operates campgrounds in several states.

I am going to go from having a pretty decent year to actually losing money to potentially being bankrupt depending on how long the shutdown lasts,” he said.

Photo by Chris Jensen for NHPR