Guest Opinions

The privatization of Redfish Lake

Dennis McLane
Dennis McLane

The Redfish Lake Recreation Area is slowly being privatized. I discovered recently that about 152 acres of the recreation area are now under lease to a private entity called Recreation Resource Management of America Inc., headquartered in Arizona.

I discovered this when I attempted to use my federal government senior pass for a day fee ($6) at the North Shore Picnic Area. I found out that through their concession permit they are allowed to exempt the use of such federal passes and the fee must be paid directly to them and not to the Forest Service. I have used my federal pass at several national parks and it has been valid for the required entry fee. But here in my own state, at a federal recreation area, it is invalid.

The Redfish Lake lodge beach is the focal point and most visited location at Redfish Lake. The lodge maintains a parking lot on the 16-acre concession area and there is no fee to park in this lot. But by midafternoon on a summer day, this lot is often filled and the beach is crowded. To park or use the areas in other parts of the recreation area requires a $6 payment to RRMA, which was issued its permit in January 2014; it expires in December 2018. This is totally lawful and may have been a fiscally responsible action on the part of the Forest Service. But in my opinion it may not be the best action for the people of Idaho. It has resulted in the privatization of Redfish Lake.

Redfish Lake is perhaps one of the most significant and well-loved scenic icons in the state of Idaho. It is so important to the people of Idaho that it would be appropriate to give it the title of “state park.” I would propose that Idaho officials take necessary action to work with the Forest Service with the potential of making the Redfish Lake Recreation Area into Redfish Lake State Park. In doing so, the area would be managed in a manner similar to the operation of Ponderosa State Park. The current state park entry fee is $5, and the State Park Passport available for $10 would allow entry for a full year. The fees collected would stay within funds retained by the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation for use in the betterment of Idaho state parks, instead of going to a private entity in Arizona.

Since the Forest Service is so interested in divesting itself of direct responsibility for the outdoor recreation operation at Redfish Lake, why not make this place, beloved by so many Idaho citizens, a state park? By the way, the scenery looks a lot like our license plate.

Dennis McLane is retired from the BLM and currently is vice-president of the Friends of Idaho State Parks.