Recreation Site Analysis & Recreation Facility Strategy

The Shawnee National Forest is working to develop a strategy that will prioritize investments, as well as suggest changes in operations or maintenance of developed recreation sites and facilities, to contribute to the sustainability of the Forest’s recreation program.  The goal is to reduce operations and maintenance costs and maximize public benefits, while balancing social, economic and environmental factors.

The last major assessment of the Forest’s recreation facilities in 2008 resulted in the closure of seven recreation sites and reduced services and/or amenities at eight others in an effort to reduce operation and maintenance costs and balance the recreation budget.  These changes, along with improved efficiencies in program implementation, did mitigate the immediate fiscal concerns for the developed recreation facilities.  However, the funding the Forest receives for the recreation program has remained relatively stable over the last five years, while costs for operating and maintaining the sites has increased.  This discrepancy along with the growing needs for major repairs due to aging infrastructure has made the program no longer sustainable.

What is a Recreation Site Analysis?

To build a sustainable recreation program, the Forest went through a process called Recreation Site Analysis. The Forest analyzed 101 developed recreation sites, considering economic, environmental, and social factors as a part of the review of sustainability (see Appendix C of the Strategy for sustainability criteria).  The analysis also considered changes in visitor interests indicated by National Visitor Use Monitoring, as well as the recreation opportunities available at nearby facilities operated by the state, other federal agencies, and private companies.  The result of the site analysis is the Recreation Facility Strategy, containing recommended actions for the next five years to improve the long-term sustainability of the Shawnee National Forest recreation program.  The draft Strategy is now available for public review and comment.

The Recreation Site Analysis determined that the Forest is capable of operating and performing routine maintenance on all recreation sites with its expected funding allocation.  However, the aging infrastructure requires increasing levels of maintenance and refurbishment, and these needs are not met by regular funding.  For this reason, the Strategy focuses on replacement and refurbishment projects which will eliminate significant backlogged maintenance and extend the working life of the structures. 

Recommended actions include a number of smaller replacement and repair projects to be conducted with annual allocated funding, a prioritized list of major refurbishment projects which will require additional funding to complete, and a proposal for new day use fees at several sites to provide additional funding for the operations and maintenance of those sites.  Several sites include interest in finding a partner to assume some or all of the operations and maintenance efforts or increasing volunteer activities in support of the site.  Four sites are identified for decommissioning (removal of all developments) – these are actions that were begun following the 2008 Recreation Site Analysis and are in the final stages of closure.  The majority of recreation sites have no suggested changes.

The success of this strategy in renovating and renewing the recreation facilities will be largely dependent on the availability of alternative funding – beyond the annual allocated budget – to address the large projects.  Repairs made within the constraints of regular funding will be smaller-scale, and timelines may be extended.  Implementation of the proposed fee changes would supplement funding available for routine and deferred maintenance at the fee sites. These repairs are necessary to ensure the facilities remain functional and safe for the foreseeable future.  Without attention to the deferred maintenance tasks, some of these recreation sites will likely have to be closed at or before the next facility assessment process. 

Review and download the Recreation Facility Strategy documents below.

Recreation Facility Strategy Documents

  1. Draft Recreation Facility Strategy
  2. Rec. Facility Strategy FAQs
  3. Table of Recommended Tasks

Visit any Shawnee National Forest office to view a hard copy during regular business hours (8am - 4:30pm).


How to Submit Comment on the Draft Recreation Facility Strategy

Public comments and suggestions will be accepted until March 31, 2020.  The comments will be taken into consideration in the finalization of the 5-year Recreation Facility Strategy. 

Comments can be mailed to:

            Recreation Program Manager
            Shawnee National Forest
            PO Box 505
            50 Highway 145 S
            Harrisburg, IL 62946

Electronic comment submissions can be sent to:  Please put “Recreation Strategy” in the subject line.

Comments can also be dropped off at any of the Shawnee National Forest offices during regular business hours.