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User fees for recreation services on public lands: a national assessment


J. Michael Bowker
H. Ken Cordell



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Southern Research Station


Journal of Park and Recreation Administration. 17(3): 1-14.


A portion of the 1995 National Survey on Recreation and the Environment examined public opinion toward user fees as a means of funding recreation services on public lands, including campgrounds, boat ramps, trails, picnic areas, historic sites, restrooms, parking areas, special exhibits and presentations, visitor centers, and other facilities. Respondents were offered five choices to fund these services, including fees only, fees and taxes, taxes only, don't provide the service, and don't know. Sample frequencies indicated that over 95 percent of the respondents felt that fees or a combination of fees and taxes should be used to fund at least one of the services. Boat ramps, campgrounds, and special exhibits drew the most support for users fees, with over 80 percent of respondents indicating that user fees should be charged to cover at least part of the costs of providing these services. User fees were least favored for picnic areas, historic sites, and restrooms. Restrooms were the only case in which less than 50 percent of the public favored the use of fees to cover at least part of the provision costs. The only service for which at least 50 percent of the public did not feel taxes should be used at least in part to cover the costs of provision was for boat ramps.

Logistic regression models were used to examine the socioeconomic factors explaining support for fees. The model included variables on age, ethnicity, income, household size, education, gender, and region of the country. Findings were somewhat mixed. However, in a general fee model and in a number of specific service models, income and ethnicity surfaced as significant explanatory variables, indicating that concerns about fairness in the implementation of fees are not unfounded. Moreover, a number of regional differences emerged, indicating differing levels of support for user fees around the country.


Bowker, J. Michael; Cordell, H. Ken; Johnson, Cassandra Y. 1999. User fees for recreation services on public lands: a national assessment. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration. 17(3): 1-14.

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