« PreviousContinue »
contraction of the perceptual field, a heightened concentration on
the task at hand, a feeling of control leading to elation and
finally to a transcendent loss of self-awareness.
Flow, in contrast
to classical leisure, occurs during intense activity when the
environment seems to provide clear, non-contradictory demands for
action and subsequent unambiguous feedback.
Flow, or play, is
perhaps the active phase of leisure while contemplation is the
Both phases, however, are intrinsically rewarding
and enjoyable, and both build a sense of personal choice and freedom
from extrinsic reward or coercion.
What is the relevance of the leisure ideal for outdoor
recreation and ultimately for user fees?
First, perhaps, it should
be said that true play or the classical leisure ideal is difficult
to achieve anywhere, but especially through the highly structured,
externally motivated recreation common in America.
Csikszentmihalyi (1978) has pointed out, the performance of behavior for external rewards (in work or recreation) is so much the dominant
motivational model in western societies that emergent, intrinsic
rewards are often completely overshadowed.
Much of our recreation
is motivated by the desire to make business contacts, meet sex
partners or be seen doing something prestigious, rather than by curiosity, exploration and intense involvement, activity done for
its own sake (Cheek and Burch 1976).
The classical.leisure ideal has been perpetuated in our
culture to a large extent through the transcendental concept of the
Mwilderness experience", a fragile fantasy involving a pioneer heritage, perceived risk and great natural beauty. Scott (1974) points out the similarities between psychologies of self
actualization and the descriptions of wilderness experiences offered
by George Catlin, John Muir, Loren Eiseley and Colin Fletcher.
state of consciousness Scott describes emphasizes depersonalization and an altered sense of time. It bears many similarities to the
neo-classical conception of leisure. Leisure, self-actualization and
the wilderness experience seem closely related psychological
In a study of these similarities, Young (1983) found
midwestern wilderness users to be slightly more self-actualized than a sample of non-wilderness users from the general public.
Respondents in this study with high leisure ethics were also more
11kely to be wilderness users and to use wilderness more often.
Positive gains in self-actualization, self-concept, internal locus
of control and other related variables have often been found in
participants of wilderness education programs as well (Gibson 1979,
Crompton and Sellar 1977.)
Accounts of fragile, transcendent
contacts with nature over the 120 years from Olmsted to Scott may
partially explain our societal reluctance to put a price tag on the
Now, one might argue, the payment of a $5 user fee is hardly a
sufficient constraint to dissipate the pioneer fantasy of a challenging wilderness trip. However, Neulinger (1974:18) concluded
that as constraint of an individual's behavior increases, the
experiences of perceived freedom and leisure diminish.
In some way
a user fee may entail such constraint.
K1e1ber (1979) proposed that
individuals who attribute the causes of events to their own actions
w111 not feel externally controlled and w111 feel more freedom than those who attribute events to others. Kleiber concluded that
persons who believe people can personally change things will hold
more positive leisure attitudes.
The more constraints placed upon
the recreationist by such regulatory management techniques as fees,
the less 11kely it may be that the recreation ist will achieve true
The argument is clearly speculation at this point, but there is a need to speculate. In a study of willingness to pay for a wild
river trip on the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River, McDonald,
Hammitt and Dottavio (1985) found 21.5% of their 233 respondents
unwilling to pay an entry fee. W111ingness to pay was negatively correlated with age, education, income, and (most strongly) with the number of rivers floated previously. It may be that experienced, self-actualized users are resistant to the imposition of an external
constraint on their leisure experience.
Just as Olmsted's ethical argument for parks included both
individual and social dimensions, contemporary sociologists have
elaborated social as well as individual benefits from outdoor
Kelly (1982) has pointed out that many people see
themselves first of all as rock climbers, builders and pilots of
small aircraft or folk singers, even when their employment is
something quite different.
For these "amateurs" (Stebbins 1979),
the leisure subculture becomes the primary source of self-definition and direction, 1.e. it becomes the meaningful community. The sense
of community generated by social leisure can, in turn, be an
important contributor to individual self-actualization (W11kinson 1979). Support for the creative behaviors essential to
self-actualization is provided by the community.
pan-cultural sense of community was a 19th century pipe dream, but 20th century American recreationists sometimes derive primary social
identities from their leisure affiliations.
In our view, nurturance
of leisure subcultures is as important as any professional activity
in the parks and recreation field.
The impact of user fees on leisure subcultures is, of course,
difficult to assess.
Perhaps there will be no effect.
and Baker (1981) found "101tering in parking lots of a local
developed park to decrease from 26 percent to 6 percent total park
use following initiation of user fees. This was, of course, reported as a desirable outcome of the fees program. But we are compelled to ask why that leisure group chose to move to
alternate site when fees were imposed.
Did they decide their
activity was not worth the price of admission?
What other leisure
behaviors are not worth the price of admission and would be
displaced by fees?
Did the fee communicate a management desire to
restrict their behavior?
Will wilderness users be reluctant to
"lotter" in the backcountry when they have to pay to do so?
Clearly, wilderness areas are different from local parks in some
ways. The point is that we do not currently understand how vulnerable leisure groups are to external constraints. Driver
(Crandall and Driver 1984) acknowledges this information gap
in his discussion of "priceless values" :
...the difficult question is whether excessive fees
In sum, we believe there are philosophical, psychological and social reasons why a democratic society should provide parks and recreation opportunities for its
populace at negligible cost to the user.
Leisure is integrally bound to freedom,
recreation managers and programmers should build a focus on personal
freedom into their policies.
Recreation's contribution to freedom
and democracy was recognized as far back as Olmsted.
of intrinsic motivation, self-actualization and leisure subcultures
is the work of the parks and recreation profession, and our policies
must reflect that commitment.
To relate revenues generated from
timber sales to revenues from recreation is a non-sequitur.
precisely because most resources in American society are processed
at a price that recreation should not be.
Many of the ideas in this paper echo the position taken by
Dustine McAvoy and Schultz in their Stewards of Access, Custodians
of Choice (1982).
These authors suggest that parks and recreation
professionals can lead a fundamental shift in American values,
cultivating environmental awareness through education. While Dustin, McAvoy and Schultz rest their case for public recreation on
ecological imperatives, we base ours on the freedom, intrinsic
motivation and leisure subcultures important to the successful
functioning of our democratic system of government.
We agree with
Dustin and his colleagues that the parks and recreation profession must constantly reexamine its ethical base. We also feel that user
fee structures are one important avenue for realizing the values we
It would be premature to propose concrete management
objectives based on the philosophical argument presented here. Much of this argument is reasoned speculation, in need of corroboration