Parks and Recreation:

Resource Limitations Affect Condition of Forest Service Recreation Sites

RCED-91-48: Published: Jan 15, 1991. Publicly Released: Jan 23, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the Forest Service's maintenance of developed recreation sites, focusing on the: (1) extent and causes of the maintenance and reconstruction backlogs; (2) Service's site inventory system; and (3) effects of resource limitations on site maintenance.

GAO found that: (1) aging facilities, increased public use, and public demand for new or modernized facilities contributed to the maintenance and reconstruction backlogs at developed recreation sites; (2) funding and staffing levels failed to adequately meet daily operation and maintenance needs; (3) the deferral of needed maintenance resulted in such health and safety hazards as contaminated drinking water, disintegrating boat ramps, and unstable stairs and bridges; (4) without routine maintenance, the environmental damage caused by natural forces and human use and vandalism could accelerate site deterioration; (5) the Forest Service lacked a reliable system to monitor or report site maintenance and reconstruction needs; (6) the extent to which districts documented site conditions and backlog data varied widely, with 12 of the 20 districts unable to provide current and accurate backlog data; (7) the Service planned to implement a new recreation information management system to collect backlog data in 1991, but the new system's usefulness was questionable because of the sources and types of data intended for the system; (8) between 1986 and 1989, the Service closed 4 percent of the 12,915 sites that existed in 1986, but total recreation site capacity increased between 1972 and 1987; (9) resource limitations contributed to reduced or eliminated services and reduced quality of the recreational experience; and (10) to compensate for limited funds and staff, the districts used such other means as volunteer and cost-share programs to help operate and maintain developed recreation sites.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Forest Service is not going to require any of the field offices to implement the "Field RIM" system. Rather, the agency believes that each region should implement a system that best meets its local needs.

    Recommendation: To ensure that information is available to make informed decisions concerning the maintenance and reconstruction of developed recreation sites, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief, Forest Service, to develop and implement a servicewide system to accurately gather and record maintenance and reconstruction needs. To accomplish this, the Forest Service should require all its regions, forests, and districts to implement the system being developed by the regions once it is completed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Each region will complete its information system according to its local needs.

    Recommendation: To ensure that information is available to make informed decisions concerning the maintenance and reconstruction of developed recreation sites, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief, Forest Service, to develop and implement a servicewide system to accurately gather and record maintenance and reconstruction needs. To accomplish this, the Forest Service should establish firm dates for completing the planned management information system being developed by the regions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Forest Service continues to experience delays in developing its Service-wide system to gather and record maintenance and reconstruction needs. Because of these delays, the Forest Service has not yet specifically addressed what internal controls or guidelines will be installed to ensure data accuracy. Forest Service officials have stated that data accuracy remains a priority.

    Recommendation: To ensure that information is available to make informed decisions concerning the maintenance and reconstruction of developed recreation sites, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief, Forest Service, to develop and implement a servicewide system to accurately gather and record maintenance and reconstruction needs. To accomplish this, the Forest Service should install internal controls and develop guidelines on how to ensure the accuracy of reported backlog data.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The system designed to collect discrete site condition information is complete. However, the system will operate only in selected regions. There is no Service-wide requirement that the system be implemented by all regions.

    Recommendation: To ensure that information is available to make informed decisions concerning the maintenance and reconstruction of developed recreation sites, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief, Forest Service, to develop and implement a servicewide system to accurately gather and record maintenance and reconstruction needs. To accomplish this, the Forest Service should establish a requirement to collect and record, at the district level, discrete site condition information, which when aggregated will yield reliable nationwide figures on maintenance and reconstruction needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Forest Service will group the backlog by defined categories.

    Recommendation: To ensure that information is available to make informed decisions concerning the maintenance and reconstruction of developed recreation sites, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief, Forest Service, to develop and implement a servicewide system to accurately gather and record maintenance and reconstruction needs. To accomplish this, the Forest Service should group or rank the backlog of deferred maintenance and reconstruction by defined categories, so that funds can be allocated for those needs deemed to be of higher priority.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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