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fraction of the visitors to the resource and an even smaller fraction of the taxpayers but their provision is quite costly, Also, in many cases, it is necessary for the full enjoyment of the recreational potential of the area.
Public Attitude: Most people expect to pay for such services. Such fees have been charged for many years without objection. The question now is: should the fees be increased, should they be extended to new campgrounds and/or facilities, how much of a service should be provided to justify a fee and should the fee vary with the quality of service.
How collected: Big expensive campgrounds could collect at the entrace where space is allotted or arrangements made for the shuttle or other service. At smaller sites where collectors are not feasible, the current locked box or meter systems seem to be very satisfactory. Most people are honest and the occasional patrol will discourage freeloaders as well as providing the necessary protection and management supervision.
Who Gets the Fees: The whole of the fee (less strictly controlled cost of collection) should go to the maintenance and improvement of recreational facilities. However, not necessarily to the collecting site. I should like to suggest the following:
A sliding scale of retention by the collecting "ranger district"--say 90% if occupancy is less than 50% graduated to 70% if occupancy equals 80% or greater.
The remainder to go to the "Recreation Maintenance and Operation Fund" to be described below.
There is a twofold rationale for this suggestion:
Once the decision has been made to furnish such services, costs are incurred irrespective of how much the service is used. Some sites, due to their location near cities or good roads or some special feature, will attract much use and receipts may exceed the cost of providing the service. Others will have relatively little use and costs will greatly exceed collection. By this suggestion the fees collected for the most popular sites will be used to maintain and improve the less accessible or to develop additional sites.
* Each "ranger district" should be encouraged and given an incentive to maintain an attractive site but practices resulting in "over use" should be discouraged. In fact, some sites, particularly those in the back country or near wildernesses, should be encouraged to maintain low occupany by permitting the "ranger district" to retain a larger portion of the fee.
Guidelines: Flexibility, so that fees may fit circumtances, are essential both because of the different missions of the various agencies and because of the great differences in terrain. Guidelines provide direction while leaving it up to each agency to determine where, when and how to collect fees. I can foresee the need for 4 types of guidelines:
* Those relating size of fee to degree of service provided
Those relating type of service to "primary purpose" of the area (i.e. primitive campground in the backcountry)
* Those defining occupancy rates and how to estimate costs (perhaps better left to regulations)
Those dealing with competition with comparable nearby private service.
SPECIAL EVENT FEES
Examples: These include enduro rides, competitive and endurance horse rides, volksmarsches, weddings, clan gatherings or any other meeting involving large numbers of people and sometimes involving the trails of several agencies.
Rationale: Though planning, management of the event and clean up after the event may all be done by the sponsoring organization, inevitably there are added costs to the agency or agencies where the event occurs--inspection of the route, approval of the plan, additional rangers on duty on the day of the event. In some cases, special remedial work may be needed by an agency to mitigate actual or potential impact on the terrain.
Attitude of Public: Most organizations sponsoring such events expect to pay for additional costs to an agency as a result of a special event. However, they would not expect to pay for routine outings--rides or hikes--such as most trail related organizations conduct on a weekly or monthy basis. They would also expect such fees to be closely related to the additional costs involved and not used to discriminate against certain types of use.
Collection and Who Gets the Fees: For certain more or less routine and frequent events such as weddings and meetings, a fee schedule should be developed for each site. For the rare or "one of a kind" event, the sponsoring organization and all the agencies involved should meet, review expected costs to each agency, agree the total fee and its allocation among agencies.
Guidelines: In view of the fact certain groups are likely to oppose certain types of events on public land, Congress should provide guidelines as to when and where special events in general may be approved. It should probably also indicate whether fees may be waived when a public purpose is being met by the event.
GENERAL PERMIT FEE
This is the fee that is the most difficult to design and about which there is the greatest difference of opinion as to 1) whether it should be imposed at all, 2) where, when and how and 3) what should be done with it.
Rationale: Parks, forests, refuges, reservoirs, etc. are created not just to preserve a resource for future generations but also, among other purposes, to provide recreational opportunities. Many say that those who benefit from those opportunities should contribute to their cost instead of expecting taxpayers to pay the total cost whether they benefit or not. And there is a cost. Access roads, trailheards, picnic areas, sanitation, safety, search and rescue all have to be provided. Trails have to be maintained. As one who has maintained trails for 30 years, I can tell you that hiking trails need as much maintence to control vegetation as any other kind of trail. While one hiker may have less impact on the land that one horseman, there are many more hikers than horsemen. Nature, even without the help of man, creates trail erosion problems that must be corrected. Backcountry and wilderness areas, because of their remoteness and relatively little use, are often the most costly areas to maintain. There are thus good grounds for arguing that general use permit fees should be collected to cover at least part of the cost of all these services. The question is: where, when, how.
Public Attitudes: A small percentage of people as a matter of principle are opposed to any fees. On the whole, I believe, the majority of visitors to our parks (forests, etc) are willing to contribute to the cost of providing general recreation opportunities. However, many qualify their approval as follows:
The method of collection and enforcement must be realistic and must be
*I am not required to carry a permit at all times and be harassed
if I do not have one on me.
It is not only the law abiding that pay the fee
Permits are easily obtainable (as at the point of collection). Most of my county is in the forest (park etc) and we have always had free access to it. Payments in lieu do not compensate for lack of taxes. Therefore, people near such forests (parks etc) should be exempt when using these forests. * I am a volunteer. I and my club have maintained trail for years and I do not see why I should buy a permit.
I approve of permit fees but not for "My Park", "my trail", "my river" "my wilderness".!!!
I believe there would be general opposition if any attempt was made to turn our natural resouces into money making assets or to divert fees collected to
How Collected: This is one of the real sticking points. Many parks, forests, refuges, reservoirs, etc. have a major point of entry. In this case, there could be a collection point where every car entering would pay either a single visit fee or show (or buy) an annual permit. Since people dont only arrive in cars a comparable fee would be collected (or permit shown) for bicyclists, runners, busloads, ORVers, horsemen. Such collection points would be manned at those times and seasons when, in the opinion of the supervisor, traffic would warrant stationing some one on the "gate".
However, some installations have so many points of access or so little use at any one point that a collection gate would not be warranted. The Forest Service maintains that this is true of most of its ranger districts. However, even the Forest Service has a great number of campgrounds giving access to all sorts of trails and recreational opportunities that are sufficiently popular to warrant a point of collection. The real problem for the Forest Service is they want to keep what they collect and realize they would fare badly compared to others. (For the solution to this problem, see "Who Gets the Fees")
But concentration on where (what areas, trails, rivers, wildernesses) can permits be required or on how many permits can I sell is, I think, faulty thinking. What are we trying to do: Sell single visit permits or sell annual permits? It is the latter I think that will provide the greatest source of receipts. So long as a person is induced by the existence of a collection point ANYWHERE to buy an annual permit, it does not make any difference if he enters a recreation area by a collection point or elsewhere. This takes care of the enforcement and harassment problem. It can also take care of the local resident user problem. If the local resident has to go through a collection gate, he can be given a pass. If he also wants to use some other park or forest, he buys an annual permit like anyone else.
Who Gets the Fees The usual answer is: the collector. This usually gets approval because most people think it ensures the fees collected will be used for recreational purposes. Again, I think this shows faulty thinking for two reasons:
1. People will refuse to buy a different permit for each of the land managing agencies they might visit. It would also be very unfair to expect them to do so. When a permit is bought from one agency and used in another, who should get it?
2. Most agencies talk of making permits easy to obtain by having them avail
able from outfitters, etc. In that case who gets the fee?
The answer to this problem is, I believe, to deposit all single visit and annual permit fees in a "Recreation Maintenance & Operations Fund"---see below.
Compulsory v. Voluntary Fees: The presentation of a permit or purchase of a single visit permit at the collection point when requested should be compulsory. However, I believe a voluntry "Friend of Federal Recreation" permit should also be made available and be equally acceptable. It should cost a little more than the basic annual fee but I think many people would be willing to pay extra, particularly if accompanied by a bumper sticker, since many people like recognition. On any given weekend, members of a family might be going to several different federal recreation areas. Father could give each child or some of his friends either a regular annual permit or the voluntary one for a present for their own use. I, as a senior citizen, have a Golden Eagle which I value because it gives me a discount at campgrounds. It is free(as is also the one for the handicapped) but I am well able to and would be glad to contribute most years to the upkeep of the trails I enjoy so much. If you doubt people's willingness to contribute, look at the success of the voluntary check-off on the income tax returns for nongame birds.
RECREATION MAINTENANCE & OPERATIONS FUND
Currently, fees go into the Land & Water Conservation Fund. But that fund is designed only to provide funds for capital acquisitions and capital improvements. It should remain such and all tempation to use it for maintenance and operational expenses should be removed.
In the future, general permit fees and part of the user fees should be put into a Recreation Maintenance and Operations Fund. A large portion of the funds collected each year should, in the following year, be appropriated and allocated to the federal land agencies in proportion to some measure of their visitor days. I say "some portion" because I believe it might be desirable that some portion of the appropriated amount--say 15%--be used for some special recreational project needed by one or other of the agencies.
I would also like to recommend that the Recreation Maintenance and Operations Fund be governed by an advisory committee made up not only of representatives of the agencies but also of representatives of the various USERS of the agency lands. This committee should be charged with:
Formulation of the regulations needed to implement the Fee Act
* Responsibility for recommending fee increases or changes in the regulations as needed from time to time
* Recommending each year the amount to be appropriated from the fund
* Approving the projects to be funded by the "discretionary 15%" referred to above.