Recreation: Changing Research Patterns
Major Research Initiatives
Chattahoochee NF Recreation Fee Study
A study of the Chattahoochie NF Recreation Fee Demonstration Program is now available. Jim Absher, along with co-authors from Clemson University (Gerard Kyle, William Hammitt, Kenneth Backman, Jennifer Cavin and James Gould), investigated visitor attitudes and preferences related to fees in general, and the Chattahoochee National Forest fee program in particular. Respondents completed a mailback survey after being contacted at targeted settings: visitor centers, day use areas, campsites and ORV use areas. This yielded 562 completed surveys (43% response rate).
Respondents were mostly white, male, averaged 44.6 years of age, and 59.1% were college graduates. Measures of forest experience revealed high levels of repeat visitors (66.9%) and length of visit varied significantly across the settings. Overall most indicated that their primary activity was day hiking (37.9%) or viewing scenery (28.5%).
Attitudes toward fees were generally supportive of the Forest Service's management of public lands. This support was also reflected in their attitudes toward the Forest Service fee program. Respondents considered the fee program a good thing, thought that it was fair, and perceived that by paying fees they were helping to preserve the forest. They also indicated understanding the reasons behind the fee program. Finally, visitors indicated that the Chattahoochee Fee Program had not influenced their attitude toward the Forest or inhibited their access to the Forest.
Preferences for revenue types showed that recreation use and entrance fees received the strongest support. Alternately, respondents expressed indifference toward the suggestion of relying on tax revenue alone, the sale of commercial tourism permits, and corporate sponsorships. Items that received the strongest opposition were the sale or leasing of the Forest for private use and the sale of commercial mining licenses and mineral resources.
Activity-based fees were generally supported, with fees for camping at developed settings judged the most acceptable. Most respondents had also indicated having previously paid a fee for this activity.
Preferences for spending fee revenue revealed strongest support for spending fee revenue on facility and setting maintenance (e.g., bathrooms, exhibits, trails) and environmental restoration. Weakest support was observed for expanding the hours of operation of the visitor centers and the installation of interpretive exhibits throughout the Forest.
Estimates of visitors' willingness to pay and appropriate price analyses showed that in all instances, respondents' estimates of the maximum they would be willing to pay were greater than their appropriate price estimates. And in most instances, the appropriate price estimates were close to the fees being charged at the Forest during the time the study was conducted.
Publications and Products related to this subject:
Absher, J.D.; Kyle, G.T.; Hammitt, W.; Backman, K.; Cavin, J.; Gould, J. 2004. Chattahoochee National Forest 2002 Recreation Fee Program Study. Unpublished report. Riverside, CA: Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. 59 p.
Research conducted by: