HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Recreation program managers from throughout the Southern Region held a meeting to talk about Forest sustainable recreation during the Region 8 Recreation Workshop at the Embassy Suites in Hot Springs National Park, Ark., Nov. 19 – 21.
The workshop provided an opportunity for recreation managers to discuss the current Region 8’s 2020 Vision and Primer for Sustainable Recreation, which is part of the Region’s sustainable Recreation Strategy created in December 2015. It includes long term desired outcomes to create a shared vision; achieve visitor satisfaction; protect natural and cultural resources; be financially sustainable; and manage effectively.
“The importance of this meeting was to get to personally meet new members of our regional staff, reconnect with other peers in the region, brainstorm together about upcoming projects and strategies that may benefit the entire region and forest, look for opportunities to collaborate with other staffs and share ideas and lessons learned in a personal and intimate manner,” said Robert Duggan, Ozark-St. Francis National Forests recreation supervisor. “Lastly it allows us to put a face to a name which will allow better collaboration and sharing in the future.”
The meeting provided an opportunity for the managers to assess their progress over the last four years and to begin to build a plan for the 2025 Vision.
“The meeting benefited the recreation managers by helping provide a better understanding of where our sustainable recreation program is currently,” said Chris Sporl, Region 8 director of is Recreation, Wilderness, Heritage, Volunteer & Service Programs. “It also helped to determine what our key focus areas are for the recreation strategy.”
Part of the assessment included how, in a time of reduced recreation budgets, National Forests can continue providing the public with high quality recreation opportunities.
“Sustainable Recreation doesn’t necessarily mean closing recreation sites,” said Bill Jackson, Ouachita National Forest’s recreation program manager. “It is effective management of those recreation sites over the Increased emphasis on the Region 8 Center of Excellence Volunteer and Service program opportunities is one of the approaches managers employ in their efforts to provide recreation services to the public.
“We are going to take the information generated from the meeting and begin crafting those key elements for the 2025 Vision, with the expectation of completing it in fall 2020,” Sporl said.
Recreation is an important economic benefit to communities and the nation. Approximately 205,000 jobs are supported through outdoor recreation on the National Forest System and about $13.6 billion dollars is contributed to the nation’s gross domestic product each year.
The Southern Region of the Forest Service, based out of Atlanta, Ga., consists of 14 national forests and two special units located in 13 states and Puerto Rico.