- Leahy, Jessica E.
Oregon State University
Since the Recreational Fee Demonstration Program was approved in 1996, allowing public land management agencies to collect and retain recreation user fees, several research studies have gathered opinions and attitudes from different groups of recreation users. One particular group, backcountry users of National Parks, had yet to be included. This thesis uses a sample of backcountry users from Grand Canyon and Everglades National Park to determine opinions and attitudes, potential displacement, and visitation responses to increased recreation user fees.
Backcountry users at these National Parks were found to be supportive of most recreation user fees, such as entrance and backcountry permit fees. However, this was not always the case; few found parking fees appropriate. The consistent opinion of respondents at both National Parks was that fee revenue should be used to revegetate impacted sites. Most backcountry users found the current price of the permit fees to be "about right."
Potential displacement is often a concern when recreation user fees are implemented. In this thesis, there were few significant demographic differences between samples that had visited before fee implementation and those that had visited after implementation. There were, however, changes in trip characteristics such as mode of transportation and amount of pre-trip planning Three to 13% of the respondents said that they would visit less often in the future because of the Recreational Fee Demonstration Program. These potentially displaced users at Everglades National Park were more likely to be low-income. Potentially displaced users at Grand Canyon National Park were more likely to be non-white, low-income, not working full time, and live closer to the National Park.
The visitation response to a hypothetical increase in recreation user fees was measured using the contingent behavior method, and estimated using the Tobit and Heckman sample selection models. Trip expenditures, distance to the National Park, and annual household income significantly affected backcountry users' decisions to plan on returning to the National Park in the next two years. For those that were planning on visiting the backcountry of the National Park. the proposed increase in recreation user fees, ratings of fees as a barrier, and frequency of participation influenced the reduction in number of visits.