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The Effect of Access Fees on Visitation to Public Lands in Whatcom County, Washington

The Effect of Access Fees on Visitation to Public Lands in Whatcom County, Washington

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Published by Sonya Rodgers
Michael Kirshenbaum's master thesis examines how charging for access is affecting the public mission of
parks and other outdoor recreation areas. Throughout American history most parks,
forests and other protected natural areas have been government owned and open to full
access by people. In the United States, therefore, parks and other outdoor areas have long
been treated as public, or so-called “merit goods.”

Over the past decade, however, the public nature of parks and other public lands
in the United States has been challenged. Governments have adopted free market
practices for the management of public lands. The most prominent of the market-based
practices is replacing park funding from general tax revenue with money raised through
access fees. Requiring the payment of a fee to access public lands is a potential indicator
of a societal shift in the treatment of public lands from merit goods to private goods.
Concerns have also been raised by citizens, land managers, and politicians that requiring
payment of a fee for access may dissuade or exclude some people from entering parks
because of an inability- or difficulty-to-pay.
Michael Kirshenbaum's master thesis examines how charging for access is affecting the public mission of
parks and other outdoor recreation areas. Throughout American history most parks,
forests and other protected natural areas have been government owned and open to full
access by people. In the United States, therefore, parks and other outdoor areas have long
been treated as public, or so-called “merit goods.”

Over the past decade, however, the public nature of parks and other public lands
in the United States has been challenged. Governments have adopted free market
practices for the management of public lands. The most prominent of the market-based
practices is replacing park funding from general tax revenue with money raised through
access fees. Requiring the payment of a fee to access public lands is a potential indicator
of a societal shift in the treatment of public lands from merit goods to private goods.
Concerns have also been raised by citizens, land managers, and politicians that requiring
payment of a fee for access may dissuade or exclude some people from entering parks
because of an inability- or difficulty-to-pay.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Sonya Rodgers on Apr 01, 2011
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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04/01/2011

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 MASTER’S THESISIn presenting this thesis in partial fulfillment of therequirements for a master’s degree at Western WashingtonUniversity, I agree that the Library shall make its copiesfreely available for inspection. I further agree that copyingof this thesis in whole or in part is allowable only for scholarly purposes. It is understood, however, that anycopying or publication of this thesis for commercialpurposes, or for financial gain, shall not be allowed withoutmy written permission.Signature ________________________ Date ________________________ 
 
 
THE EFFECT OF ACCESS FEES ON VISITATION TO PUBLIC LANDS INWHATCOM COUNTY, WASHINGTON
A thesis presented to the faculty of Western Washington UniversityIn partial fulfillment of the requirements for the DegreeMaster of SciencebyMichael KirshenbaumFebruary 2006
 
iv
ABSTRACT
This thesis examines how charging for access is affecting the public mission of parks and other outdoor recreation areas. Throughout American history most parks,forests and other protected natural areas have been government owned and open to fullaccess by people. In the United States, therefore, parks and other outdoor areas have longbeen treated as public, or so-called “merit goods.”Over the past decade, however, the public nature of parks and other public landsin the United States has been challenged. Governments have adopted free marketpractices for the management of public lands. The most prominent of the market-basedpractices is replacing park funding from general tax revenue with money raised throughaccess fees. Requiring the payment of a fee to access public lands is a potential indicator of a societal shift in the treatment of public lands from merit goods to private goods.Concerns have also been raised by citizens, land managers, and politicians that requiringpayment of a fee for access may dissuade or exclude some people from entering parksbecause of an inability- or difficulty-to-pay.The issue of paying a fee for basic access to public lands is critical in determiningwhether parks are still truly merit goods, as has been their historic role, or if a change isoccurring. The role of income in response to fees goes even further as a measure of where parks fall on the merit goods / private goods spectrum: If fees dissuade the poor,but not the wealthy, from using public lands, then this would be a strong indicator that thedemocratic ideal behind parks and other public lands is being eroded. The interplaybetween income and response to fees is central to the determination: Is access to publiclands something available equally to all citizens, regardless of income, like a library or 

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