MASTER’S THESIS In presenting this thesis in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a master’s degree at Western Washington University
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THE EFFECT OF ACCESS FEES ON VISITATION TO PUBLIC LANDS IN WHATCOM COUNTY, WASHINGTON
A thesis presented to the faculty of Western Washington University
In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree Master of Science
by Michael Kirshenbaum February 2006
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 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. The issue of paying a fee for basic access to public lands is critical in determining whether parks are still truly merit goods, as has been their historic role, or if a change is occurring. 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 the democratic ideal behind parks and other public lands is being eroded. The interplay between income and response to fees is central to the determination: Is access to public lands something available equally to all citizens, regardless of income, like a library or
police protection, or are public lands becoming another consumer good that some people can afford and others cannot. This thesis used survey research methodology to examine the attitudes and behaviors of residents of Whatcom County, Washington, towards public lands access fees. A general population survey of 301 residents was conducted in May 2005 inquiring about a wide-range of responses to public lands access fees. Multivariate statistical techniques were employed to determine to what extent income plays a role in reaction to public land access fees. The research was designed to test the following hypotheses: first, that access fees dissuade people from using public lands; and, second, that lower income groups are more affected by fees than upper income groups. The research conducted here has disproved the null hypothesis that there is not a relationship between fees, visitation patterns, and income. Fees dissuade about one-third of the survey respondents from using public lands. Lower-income residents consistently reported being more negatively affected by fees than the higher income groups. The lower-income group responded, at statistically significant levels (p < .05) that they do not use parks as often because of fees, that fees are economically hard to pay, that they change their site selection because of fees, and that they are opposed to paying fees.
This project would not have occurred without the assistance of a number of people. A special thanks to my thesis committee: Dr. Michael Medler, the chair, provided regular support, very useful insights and many brainstorming opportunities into the broader issues behind my thesis topic; Dr. Grace Wang provided key support and encouragement when I needed it most and helped to keep me focused; and Dr. Pamela Jull was generous in her time to help me through the nuts and bolts of not only survey methodology but also important statistical techniques. I cannot thank strongly enough the undergraduate students who helped me to make the thousands of telephone calls to complete the survey. Without their dedication, professionalism, sense-of-humor and stamina the telephone survey would have never happened. They are: Rose Agbalog, Heather Boad, Sandra Brozusky, Stephanie Dressel, Joseph Gallagher, David Hutchinson, Vincent Jansen, Monica Libbey, Teresa Mathiesen, Sara Pittenger, Johanna Smith, and Chad Weldy. Thank you to Richard Frye, WWU computer pro, who provided much assistance with compiling the data and using the survey software. Additionally, WWU’s Office of Survey Research was generous in their willingness to loan me equipment to conduct the survey.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ABSTRACT...................................................................................................................iv ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ..............................................................................................vi LIST OF TABLES .........................................................................................................ix LIST OF FIGURES........................................................................................................ix I. INTRODUCTION ......................................................................................................1 Key Definitions ...........................................................................................................4 II. BACKGROUND .......................................................................................................6 Merit Goods ................................................................................................................6 Public Lands as Merit Goods.......................................................................................8 Transforming Public Lands To Private Goods ...........................................................12 Public Land Access Fees ...........................................................................................15 Research Question .....................................................................................................18 Previous Fee-Related Research..................................................................................20 Utility of Research.....................................................................................................23 III. METHODS ............................................................................................................26 Study Area ................................................................................................................26 Methodology .............................................................................................................28 Project Design: Key Information and Variables ........................................................30 Project Design: Survey type.......................................................................................32 Project Design: Sample method .................................................................................33 Project Design: Survey Instrument Construction........................................................35 Project Design: Conducting the survey ......................................................................37 Statistical Analysis ....................................................................................................38 IV. RESULTS ..............................................................................................................42 Summary of Key Findings .........................................................................................42 Response Rate ...........................................................................................................43 Demographics ...........................................................................................................44 Results for General Outdoor Usage Questions ...........................................................46
Results for Behavioral Fee Questions ........................................................................48 Results for Attitudinal Fee Questions.........................................................................54 Additional Analysis With Extended Independent Variable Model..............................59 Qualitative Results ....................................................................................................61 Summary of Results ..................................................................................................62 V. DISCUSSION .........................................................................................................64 Discussion of Results.................................................................................................64 Fees and the Privatization of Public Lands.................................................................66 Limitations of Research.............................................................................................70 Conclusions...............................................................................................................71 VI. LITERATURE CITED..........................................................................................73 VII. APPENDIX A.......................................................................................................77 Complete survey with responses to each question ......................................................77 VIII. APPENDIX B......................................................................................................84 Regression tables utilizing expanded demographic model for select questions ...........84
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1 Table 2 Table 3 Table 4 Table 5 Table 6 Table 7 Table 8 Table 9 Table 10 Table 11 Major public land agencies in the United States Public land access fees in Whatcom County 1998 – present Calling results Household income in Whatcom County Age results Fees and visitation patterns Avoidance of paying a fee in the past year Altered site selection Walk-in to avoid fees Economic difficulty of paying fees Opposition to fees 10 16 43 45 45 50 51 53 54 55 57
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3 Figure 4 Figure 5 Figure 6 Figure 7 Figure 8 Figure 9 Figure 10 Figure 11 Figure 12 Federal lands in Washington and Oregon Study area – Whatcom County, Washington Response rate Public land usage Outdoor activities in the past year How do fees affect how often you go to those places Avoidance of paying a fee in the past year Altered site selection Economic difficulty of paying fees Opposition to fees Parks treated like libraries or movie theaters? Source of funding 11 27 43 47 47 49 51 52 55 56 58 59
Throughout American history most parks, forests and other protected natural areas have been owned by the government and open to full access by people. This public status of parks did not occur by accident, however, and is contrary to the history of parks in many other countries. The origins of the American treatment of parks as public goods can be traced to early American architects of both urban and remote wilderness parks, such as Fredrick Law Olmsted, who believed that parks play a key role in promoting the democratic ideals upon which the United States was founded. Olmsted believed that the benefits of natural settings should be made available to the entire public, regardless of economic class. This concept, among other factors, resulted in government ownership of virtually all large, protected natural spaces. The creation of vast public land holdings was in contrast to European societies, where natural landscapes were usually privately owned and reserved for the elite. In the United States, therefore, parks and other outdoor areas have long been treated as public, or so-called “merit goods.” In capitalist societies like the United States, resources are typically distributed by market forces. Merit goods, however, are resources considered to be so important that the government decides to directly provide them or to subsidize their provision. This is often the case when the laissez-faire market cannot distribute the resources in an effective, equitable, or ethical manner. Prominent examples of such merit goods include public schools, fire-fighting services, and public libraries. The creation and provision of these services is not given to the private sector, which can then charge whatever price the market would bear. Rather, it is the public sector that manages these essential services so that they are made available
to the entire citizenry, regardless of ability to pay. These services have historically been paid for through broad and progressive taxation. Over the past decade, however, the public nature of parks and other public lands in the United States has been challenged. Two related forces – government budget deficits and free-market ideology – have created an environment that has begun to erode the status of public lands as merit goods. In recent years, governments at various levels have adopted free market practices for the management of public lands. These marketbased practices include: using revenue from access fees rather than general tax revenue to pay for public-land operations; seeking corporate sponsorship for projects; privatizing management services; and even proposing the outright sale of public lands to the private sector. These market-based practices represent a shift in the management philosophy of public lands that has the potential to alter the historic democratic nature of parks. The most prevalent market-based effort implemented thus far throughout the nation’s public land system has been to charge for access to public lands, usually in the form of entrance fees or parking fees. Whereas only national parks charged for access during most of the past 100 years, the past decade has witnessed many other public land units beginning to charge 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 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. This thesis will examine the impact of public land access fees on residents of Whatcom County, Washington, to determine whether such fees are excluding or
dissuading county residents from using public lands based on their level of income. More specifically, the research questions this thesis will focus on are: • • Whether access fees affect the nature and frequency of public land visitation. Whether the relationship between fees and visitation is affected by visitor income level. • Whether fees are consistent with the merit goods status of public land.
The primary hypothesis this research tested is twofold: First, that access fees dissuade people from using public lands; and, second, that lower income groups are more affected by fees than upper income groups. This hypothesis was tested using a general population survey of Whatcom Country residents that collected data on people’s behaviors and attitudes towards public land access fees. In sum, this thesis seeks to examine how charging for access is affecting the public mission of parks and other outdoor recreation areas. The issue of paying a fee for basic access is critical in determining whether parks are still truly merit goods, as has been their historic role, or if a change is occurring. 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 the democratic ideal behind parks and other public lands is being eroded. The interplay between income and response to fees is central to the determination: Is access to public lands something available equally to all citizens, regardless of income, like a library or police protection, or are public lands becoming another consumer good that some people can afford and others cannot?
Key Definitions There are several words and phrases that should be clearly defined from the outset: • Public lands and parks: Public lands refer to relatively undeveloped outdoor natural areas managed by government agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service, Washington State Parks, and Whatcom County Parks. There are many terms used to describe such natural areas, including: park, forest, preserve, river, lake and other outdoor-recreation areas. What these public lands have in common – whether managed at the local, state or federal levels – is that they constitute publicly owned and protected landscapes that are open to visitation by people. At times the word “parks” is used synonymously with “public lands” in order to provide some variation. • Access Fees: This refers to the relatively new phenomenon of charging the public for basic access to public lands, usually in the form of purchasing a parking pass or paying at an entrance station. The fees in question range from $5 - $11 per day with more expensive annual or seasonal passes also available. There are a few caveats to my use of the term “access fees.” First, not all fees are technically for access; rather they are for parking and you can still enter the public land for free as long as you don’t park there. Given the reality that an automobile is required to visit many public lands in Whatcom County, however, a fee on parking is a de facto access fee. The second caveat is that not all public lands that charge access fees do so at all of their entry points. Some do, such as national parks and Washington state parks; but the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest has many
trailheads with free access, although virtually all of their most popular trailheads require paying a fee. • Visitation: People access public lands in a number of ways, including via parking lots, trails, horseback paths, boat launches or just by parking off the side of the road and walking into the woods. Visitation may vary between multi-night backpacking trips at North Cascades National Park to a short walk at Larrabee State Park. Therefore visitation refers to any type of use of public lands for any amount of time.
This section will situate the research question and hypothesis in the broader context of the history of public lands and their treatment as merit goods in the United States. First, I will introduce merit-good theory and provide examples of how it has been applied in the United States. Second, I will discuss the history of public lands and the reasons for their designation as merit goods. Third, I will examine the relatively recent efforts to change the nature of parks and other outdoor areas from merit goods to private goods through the use of market-based management policies. Fourth, I will examine the emergence of public land access fees including a review of previous research in this area. Finally, I will discuss the outstanding research questions and the utility of this research, including the contribution I hope this thesis will make to the literature. Merit Goods The economy of the United States is based on a capitalist system that allows market forces to determine the distribution of most goods and services. There are many important exceptions, however, to market-based distributions. A prominent example is that throughout the history of the United States, parks and other such outdoor landscapes have been owned by the government, which in turn has made these lands open to the public (Nash 2001). There are large publicly-accessible outdoor areas owned by the private sector, such as golf courses or other sports complexes, but there are vastly less privately held hiking trails, neighborhood parks, or boat launches. As this section will discuss, the public-nature of outdoor recreation has been intentional.
The government’s provision of public land benefits demonstrates that they are treated as “merit goods.” Merit-goods theory holds that there are essential resources so important that the government decides to distort consumer sovereignty and market forces by directly providing them or subsidizing their provision. This is often the case when the laissez-faire market cannot distribute socially important resources in an effective, equitable, or ethical manner. Prominent examples of such merit goods include: public education, fire fighting services, police services, and public libraries. The creation and provision of these services is not given to the private sector which could charge any price even if it would be more than some people could pay. Rather, it is the public sector that is in charge of these essential services and makes them available to the entire citizenry, usually paid for through broad and progressive taxation (Musgrave 1959; Cockrell and Wellman 1985; Schultz, McAvoy et al. 1988). Decisions concerning what should be considered merit goods and what should be left to the private sector are often contested. In the current era, the role and size of government is a major political issue that frequently divides liberal and conservative ideological camps. With the ascendancy of conservatism in the United States over the past twenty-five years, there have been widespread and concerted efforts to shift some traditional government roles to the private sector and for the government to adopt more business-like practices (More 2002). As this paper will discuss, the public status of parks and other public outdoor areas has been a contested part of the broader societal debate over merit goods versus private goods.
Public Lands as Merit Goods The merit-goods status of parks and other outdoor recreation areas in the United States may seem immutable, but the country could have developed differently. How did parks and other outdoor recreation areas in the U.S. become merit goods rather than private goods? The consensus in the literature is that this development began with Frederick Law Olmsted (1822 – 1903), perhaps the most influential designer and architect of parks in the history of the United States. Olmsted was responsible not only for designing urban parks such as New York City’s Central Park and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, but also for developing management plans for wilderness parks, such as Yosemite National Park. Olmsted believed that parks should be designed and managed in accordance with American principles of democracy. He was adamantly against the attitudes of the European aristocracy, which viewed parks as the manicured playground of the elite. Olmsted believed it was part of the democratic and non-aristocratic character of the United States to provide an environment that would allow for a different kind of relationship between citizens and their parks (Cranz 1982; Cockrell and Wellman 1985; Duncan 1991; More 1999; Nash 2001). Olmsted held that democracy would be promoted in parks by designing them to immerse people in natural settings that encouraged a spontaneous and individual, rather than a structured, response. He theorized that this type of mental process would allow a level of contemplation that is critical to democratic governance. Olmsted believed that the ability of park visitors to freely wander about, making their own decisions about how to experience the natural setting, allowed for a cognitive freedom missing in other aspects
of life. Additionally, Olmsted designed parks to promote the mixing of social classes, another essential characteristic of American democracy in his opinion (Cockrell and Wellman 1985; Dustin 1986). Olmsted’s philosophy was consistent with the social-reform movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Cranz 1982; Duncan 1991). During this time, proponents of urban parks targeted low-income neighborhoods for the establishment of new parks. Similar to Olmsted’s vision of parks nurturing democracy, the social-reform movement considered parks to be an essential social good that would help improve the lives of lower-class urban residents. There has been considerable research in recent years that has added to or confirmed Olmsted’s ideas regarding the benefits of visiting public lands (Hendee, Stankey et al. 1990; Trainor and Norgaard 1999). These benefits include: providing opportunities for outdoor recreation such as hiking, picnicking, hunting, and other similar activities; providing access to some degree of solitude in an increasingly urbanized world; and providing opportunities for the exploration of psychological, spiritual and cultural values uniquely found in undisturbed natural landscapes (Harmon and Putney 2003). As a result of the philosophy espoused by Olmsted and many other prominent advocates of the social benefits of public lands, government has long been in the business of controlling most parks and other protected natural areas (Cockrell and Wellman 1985). With the exception of a few private non-profit entities such as the Nature Conservancy, an organization that buys and protects vulnerable land, the government has a near monopoly on managing large natural landscapes (Table 1). This government intervention
has therefore clearly removed such lands from the realm of the private market to treat them as merit goods (Cockrell and Wellman 1985; Dustin 1986; Schultz, McAvoy et al. 1988). The centrality of the merit-goods nature of public lands is made obvious in the mission statements and managing statutes of public land agencies. The
Table 1 Major public land agencies in the United States Department of Interior - National Park Service - Bureau of Land Management - U.S. Fish & Wildlife Federal Government Agency Department of Agriculture - U.S. Forest Service Department of Defense - Army Corps of Engineers State Government (Washington) Local Government (Whatcom County) Washington State Parks Department of Natural Resources Whatcom County Parks Bellingham City Parks, etc.
mission statement for Washington State Parks (WSP 2005), for example, states: The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission acquires, operates, enhances and protects a diverse system of recreational, cultural, historical and natural sites. The Commission fosters outdoor recreation and education statewide to provide enjoyment and enrichment for all, and a valued legacy to future generations. . . When Yellowstone was set aside in 1872 as the world's first national park, it marked the start of a new attitude toward the American outdoors. Citizens gradually came to see value in saving tracts of open space for everyone to enjoy. . .(emphasis added) Similarly, the United States Congress reaffirmed the merit-goods nature of national parks in one of the key modern management documents for the National Park Service, the 1978 Redwoods Act (92 Stat. 163 (U.S.Congress 1978)): Congress further reaffirms, declares, and directs the promotion and regulation of the various areas of the National Park System . . . shall be consistent with and founded in the purpose established by the first section of the Act of August 25, 1916, to the common benefit of all the people of the United States. The authorization of activities shall be construed and the protection, management, and administration of these areas shall be conducted in light of the high public value and integrity of the National Park System. . . . (emphasis added) Olmsted’s vision of public stewardship and open access to natural landscapes largely came true: Government at the state and federal levels own approximately 40
percent of the land mass of the United States. In Washington State (Figure 1) about 42 percent of the land is owned by the state and federal governments (NWI 1995).
Figure 1 - Federal Lands in WA and OR (USFS 1996)
Additionally, the public has embraced visiting outdoor areas with a fervor that surely would have made Olmsted happy: As of 2000, Washington State Parks had an annual attendance of 58 million -- representing a 40 percent increase from a decade earlier (WSP 2005). Nationally, outdoor activities are also very popular. A 2002 national survey found that nearly 60 percent of the public reported participating in the activity of “viewing natural scenery” and 57 percent reported “visiting a nature center trail or zoo (USDA 2000).” Transforming Public Lands To Private Goods The merit-goods status of parks and other public lands is currently under broad assault by prominent lawmakers, agency officials, and conservative think tanks. The implementation of access fees at a wide range of parks and other outdoor areas is one example of the market-based management practices being adopted by public land agencies, but there are many others, as this section will discuss. The merit goods status of parks and other outdoor areas has met with opposition since the beginning of the modern park movement around the turn of the 20th century (Cranz 1982). Olmsted and other early park pioneers believed that the social importance of parks and outdoor areas necessitated their accessibility to the entire public. Therefore, private ownership, with its potential commercial intrusions or restrictions on access, was not considered acceptable. As far back as 1900, park advocates found it necessary to actively protect the public nature of parks by calling for a prohibition on any form of advertising or commercial activity in parks (Cranz 1982). It wasn’t until the 1990s that access fees became widespread and only after federal lawmakers had repeatedly rebuffed
efforts throughout the 20th century to charge for access (White 1992; Wellman and Probst 2004). The effort to introduce market-based management practices gained steam during the early 1980s. The Reagan administration tried to halt the growth of the nation’s public-land inventory by eliminating funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the federal government’s primary tool for increasing the nation’s public-land acreage (Shute 1995). Free-market think tanks simultaneously began calling for selling off some public lands and encouraging commercial activities in others (Beckwith 1981). Currently, there is a broad ideological push to adopt policies that would begin to treat parks and other public lands as private goods. The private-goods argument is primarily based in a free market ideology that broadly favors privatizing most government services. This ideology would be applied to public lands via a spectrum of methods, including: access fees; selling advertising or sponsorship space; privatizing service provision; and possibly the outright sale of public lands to private entities (Schultz, McAvoy et al. 1988; Johnson 1991; Hanson 2005; McClure 2005). Advocates of this market-based approach contend that government should adopt a business model in managing public lands that requires each unit to generate revenue and become “self sufficient” – i.e. cut costs and raise revenue as much as possible on-site rather than rely upon general tax revenue (More 2002). A prominent example of adopting market-based policies to public lands is Mt. Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument, which is operated by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). “Mount St. Helens open to bids,” a Portland newspaper declared (Milstein 2005) in describing a USFS plan to raise revenue through privately run helicopter tours,
cabin construction and mobile snack carts at scenic view points. The plan also sought bids from private companies to take over operations of the monument’s visitor centers. Another recent example is the Department of Interior requiring maintenance divisions at several national parks to audit their jobs for information that would be used to facilitate outsourcing (NPCA 2004). Finally, the U.S. House of Representatives recently approved legislation sponsored by the chair of the Resources Committee, Richard Pombo (R-CA), a vocal opponent of public lands, that could open more than 350 million acres of public land to mining and real estate speculation by private interests (McClure 2005). This legislation did not pass the Senate, however, and did not become law. In recent years, the National Park Service (NPS) has turned to private sources of money, usually through non-profit “friends of” groups, to raise new revenue. The Yosemite Fund, a non-profit organization that supports Yosemite National Park, has given over $23 million to the park since 1988. The Yosemite Fund has received donations from corporations such as Bank of American, Chevron and Wells Fargo. A new NPS policy also encourages parks to approach corporations and other potential “partners” to donate money for specific projects, which would then be recognized by plaques, commemorative bricks or other signage indicating the benefactors, including their corporate logos (Doyle 2005). In Washington State, free market think tanks have also promoted the idea of privatizing public lands and implementing user fees and market-based management practices. The Washington Institute Foundation, for example, has encouraged contracting out the entire operations of state parks to private businesses (Herrington
2000). The Washington Policy Center has extensive policy recommendations for changing Washington State Parks: “State Parks’ budget problems are real, but solvable,” a report from the center states. “A comprehensive solution requires the state to embrace the benefits of market-based user fees and privatization (Hanson 2005).” There has also been support for market-based practices from public land officials. Some officials have stated that they support market-based alternative revenue streams and cost cutting methods in order to better serve the public (Bach 2003). One factor possibly contributing to this acceptance is that public land officials have, for years, been confronted by insufficient appropriated tax dollars. Indeed, research shows that since the 1980s budgets for public-land agencies have not kept pace with an increased maintenance backlog or growing public demand (Wellman and Probst 2004). As of 2003, for example, Washington State Parks had a maintenance backlog of $34 million (WSP 2005). Public land officials, therefore, have a strong need to identify methods to increase their budgets. As will be discussed later, however, it appears that access fees often do not always supplement public land budgets but rather replace previously appropriated dollars. Public Land Access Fees Public land access fees have been the most widely implemented of the marketbased management changes. Until the mid 1990s, most public lands in the United States, with the exception of national parks, did not charge a fee for access, and the federal government expressly forbid charging entry fees at federal lands except for national parks (White 1992; Turner 2002; Williams and Black 2002). This began to change in 1996 when the U.S. Congress passed the Recreation Fee Demonstration Act (P.L.-104-134 1996), known as “Fee Demo,” which allowed most federal land-management agencies –
including the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management – to charge access fees and keep most of the revenue on-site rather than send it back to Washington, D.C. Congress’ goal for the program was: To demonstrate the feasibility of user-generated cost recovery for the operation and maintenance of recreation areas or sites and habitat enhancement projects on federal land (P.L.-104-134 1996). At the same time, Congress instructed agencies to pursue revenue generation through concession operations, private investment, volunteers and partnerships (Williams and Black 2002). The federal government implemented the Fee Demo program throughout federal lands. In 2001, for example, 80 different Forest Service units charged access fees generating more than $35 million (GAO 2003). In Washington State, Fee Demo resulted in access fees being charged at numerous trailheads on federal lands, such as at the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, that had previously been free (Table 2).
Table 2 Public Land Access Fees in Whatcom County 1998 - present Pre 1998 Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest North Cascades National Park WA Dept. Fish & Wildlife Washington State Parks City Parks County Parks Free Free Free Free Free Free 1998-2002 daily / annual $5 / $30 $5 / $30 $ 11 / na Free Free Free 2002-present daily / annual $5 / $30 $5 / $30* $11 / na $5 / $50 Free Free
Note on table: For some areas that charge fees (NPS and USFS), fees are not charged at all access points. * North Cascades NP changed policy at the end of 2005 and is no longer charging a parking fee at trailheads. New fees are being considered, however, to replace the revenue from the parking fees.
In 2004, Congress passed a ten-year extension of the fee program, renaming it the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA). This law was enacted despite the opposition of a wide range of interests, from environmentalists to libertarian Republican lawmakers from Western states (Craig 2005). The new law continues the basic approach of Fee Demo by allowing access fees to be charged at many federal public lands. A major change in this new law, however, is that failure to pay an access fee is now a criminal offense: first offenses are capped at a $100 fine, but a criminal record is created and subsequent offenses are subject to penalties up to $100,000 and/or 1 year in jail (P.L.-108-447 2005). The emergence of access fees has not been limited to federal lands, as many state park systems also now charge entry fees. In Washington State, the State Parks and Recreation Commission voted in 2002 to charge for access to most state parks, all of which had previously been entirely free of charge except for value-added services like developed campgrounds (Table 2). The access fees at Washington State Parks are $5 per day, per vehicle or $50 per year, and those rates will rise to $7 per day and $70 per year in 2008 (WSP 2005). It is not common for city and county parks to charge access fees, perhaps due to easy accessibility to these areas by foot, bike, and bus, thus making the use of parking fees impractical. But advocates of adopting market-based strategies for public lands have suggested local parks should also charge entry fees. A former director of parks in Indianapolis, Leon Younger, suggested that an economic value should be placed on outdoor recreation experiences at city parks: “There is nothing wrong with placing a value on a recreation experience (TPL 1998).”
In sum, this section has examined the theory of merit goods and how the United States came to treat outdoor areas as public, rather than private, resources. It was a decision rooted in a democratic ideal about access to nature, where citizens of all class backgrounds would stand to benefit from accessing parks and other outdoor areas. The public nature of parks and outdoor areas has been challenged in recent years, however, by both free-market ideology and budget difficulties. The advent and wide implementation of fees, along with other market-based approaches to generating revenue and cutting costs, represents a fundamental shift in the management of public lands. Access fees are the most prominent and widespread of the market-based changes altering the management of public lands. This change in policy has numerous implications and many potential research questions in need of studying, as the next section will explore. Research Question The adoption of public land access fees has generated considerable public, governmental, media, and academic interest. Protests have been held throughout the country in opposition to fees; supporters of fees have formed lobbying groups to promote access fees and other market-based policies (Herrington 2000; Hanson 2005); newspaper and magazine archives are filled with stories regarding the implementation and impact of access fees (Connelly 2001; Turner 2002; Turner 2003; Wureful 2003; Mottram 2004; Kenworthy 2005; Milstein 2005); the government has released numerous reports and policy documents regarding fees (Dustin and Knopf 1988; GAO 1998; GAO 2003); and, finally, many researchers have focused on the fee issue (Putkammer 2001; Williams and Black 2002). Yet, for all of the attention and research already invested in access fees, there are considerable gaps in our understanding of the impacts of this new policy.
A key aspect of fees that have received some, but limited, attention is the research topic for this thesis: whether fees affect visitation and whether income-level plays a role in how people respond to fees. Examining the potential impact of fees on lower income populations has been recognized as an important topic in need of research by government agencies and others (GAO 1998; Williams and Black 2002; GAO 2003; Mottram 2004). A 2002 U.S. Forest Service report, for example, clearly stated the need for research to answer the following questions about fees: • • Whether the Fee Demonstration Program limits access based on economic ability to pay and causes an inequitable effect on those who have less income. Whether the population most affected by the program is defined by low-income or by low disposable or discretionary income (Williams and Black 2002)
Despite these calls for research on the impact of fees on lower-income populations, relatively little research has been conducted on this question, and that which has been conducted has had methodological limitations. Additionally, I have been unable to find any research conducted on this question in Washington State or Whatcom County. Before proceeding, it is important to clearly answer the following question: Why is it important to study whether fees affect how people use public lands and who uses them? The answer is based on the historic treatment of public lands as merit goods. There are numerous goods in society that are unaffordable to many people and wealth buys varying levels of access to any number of private environments. Historically, however, public lands have been treated as merit goods and basing access on an abilityto-pay is a relatively new development. If income groups respond unequally to public land access fees, as this thesis seeks to discover, that would call into question whether
parks are serving their historic public purpose of being available to all people for their use and enjoyment. As More and Stevens persuasively argue: If low-income people are, in fact, excluded from public parks and recreation areas, then serious policy questions are raised about the very purpose of public recreation. . . . [W]hen agencies begin to act like entrepreneurs seeking selffunding through fees, and low-income people are excluded, the public purpose – the very reason for public ownership – is defeated (More and Stevens 2000). The potential exclusionary effect of access fees on visitation, therefore, is a powerful indicator of whether public lands are still treated as merit goods. As previously stated, the democratic nature of public lands – the provision of their benefits to all people – is a tenet written into the mission statements and managing legislation of many public land agencies. Regardless of whether or not there is an association between income and response to access fees, there remains the ultimate philosophical issue of the basic compatibility between access fees and public lands. Even if lower-income people say they are willing to pay fees at the same rate as higher-income people, fees may not be consistent with the mission and history of public lands. At the very least, it clear that restricting access to those who can afford to pay represents a profound change in policy that is worthy of study. Previous Fee-Related Research Much of the fee-related research conducted thus far has examined more managerial aspects of fees, such as price structure, revenue generation, preferred feerevenue expenditures, and other implementation issues (Putkammer 2001; Williams and Black 2002). Additional research has been conducted looking at general attitudes
towards fees as a method of revenue generation (Williams, Vogt et al. 1999), and the effect of fees on wilderness issues (Trainor and Norgaard 1999). Regarding the impact of fees on visitation, there are several studies that have looked at this issue but did not consider income effects. These studies found that access fees clearly change how some, but not all, people use public lands by decreasing the frequency of visitation or by altering site selection to choose free sites. For example, one study (Schneider and Budruk 1999)1 interviewed people at two very similar beach locations, one in a National Forest that charged access fees and one at a free site. This research found that approximately one-third of the respondents said they had changed their visitation patterns as a result of fees. Of that one-third, 62 percent reported visiting the fee-charging National Forest site less often. Similarly, a study at the Desolation Wilderness in California showed that an access fee as low as $3 significantly affected use patterns (Williams, Vogt et al. 1999)2. A study in Chicago (Schroeder and Louviere 1999)3 also found that fees had a significant impact on the site choice of users with almost 40 percent saying they avoided sites that charge fees. Research examining the effect of fees on the visitation patterns of different income groups is very limited. There are a few studies, but the question has not been explored by many researchers. In summary, these studies have generally found that lower-income respondents are more negatively impacted by fees than upper-income respondents. As will be discussed in the next section, Utility of Research, despite these studies there are gaps in the literature that this thesis seeks to address.
Schneider 1999 details: Self-administered survey. Number of responses = 346 (response rate unknown). Williams 1999 details: Structural equation model. Mail survey sent to recreation permit holders. Number of responses = 320 (71% response rate). 3 Schroeder 1999 details: Stated choice model. General population random telephone directory telephone survey. Number of responses = 302 (58% response rate).
The most important of the fee / income studies is that by More and Stevens (2000). Using a general-population mail survey, this study found that lower-income residents of Vermont and New Hampshire were more likely than higher-income residents to be deterred by fees from using public lands. This study is particularly important because it is one of the few to use a general population survey and because it asked about fees charged at a range of public lands rather than just one park.4 Another important study was conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers (Reiling and McCarville 1994) using on-site surveys at a number of its facilities nationwide to determine the effect of day-use access fees. This study found that lower-income visitors would use the Army Corps public lands less regularly if there were access fees.5 Finally, a large general-population survey conducted by the U.S. Forest Service in its Pacific Northwest Region found that lower-income respondents were negatively affected by access fees. Lower-income groups in this survey were more likely than the other income groups to say they could not afford to pay access fees and that fees would make it so that “only the rich could afford to go to national forests (Burns, Graefe et al. 2002).6” There are additional studies and theories that examine the usage of public lands by different socioeconomic groups. Opportunity theory, for example, posits that travel
More 2000 details: Disproportionate stratified general population mail survey with oversampling in lower-income geographic areas. Number of responses = 296 (34% response rate.) Analysis found that $5 access fee would affect about 49% of lower-income vs. 33% of high income. 5 Reiling 1994 details: Random sample of days users sent a mail survey. Number of responses =1405 (56% response rate). 40% of all groups state they would not visit for day use if a fee was charged. More lower income respondents than upper income respondents reported not wanting to pay a fee at statistically significant level (p<0.10). 6 Burns 2002 details: General population random-digit telephone survey in Washington and Oregon. Number of responses = 2,005 (response rate n/a). One-third with income $30,000 or less. 17% either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with the statement “I can’t afford to pay a fee to recreate on National Forests.” This study is somewhat limited by no statistical analysis and it is unclear whether the results are statistically significant.
costs and the lack of nearby public-land areas can be a major factor affecting visitation for lower-income people (Lindsay and Ogle 1972; Lieber, Fesenmaier et al. 1989). Ethnicity theory can be used to explain outdoor recreation preferences based on varying cultural value systems, norms and leisure socialization patterns (Floyd 1999; Lee, Scott et al. 2001). These theories demonstrate that democratic access to parks can be challenged by many factors in addition to access fees. They do not address, however, the unique impact of fees on already established behaviors. The question remains, therefore, whether income-level is a factor in how people react to access fees. This question is based on classic economic theory which holds that: raising the price of a good or service reduces the quantity of that good or service to be purchased; those with the least money drop out of the market first; and all taxes levied directly on consumption are regressive, causing people to pay the same regardless of income level (More 2002). Utility of Research This project seeks to contribute to the literature by examining the relationship between public land access fees, visitation patterns, and income. As the previous review of the literature shows, there has already been research conducted on this issue, but important gaps remain. More specifically, the new research conducted in this thesis is necessary in three ways: First, there is no research publicly available on this topic regarding Washington State or Whatcom County. Although the Burns (2002) study did cover the entire Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. Forest Service, which includes Washington State and Whatcom County, this survey only examined policies regarding U.S. Forest Service land
and did not ask very detailed question relating to how income groups differ in their response to access fees. Given the prominence and popularity of public lands in Whatcom County, it seems especially important to examine the issue of access fees at this location. Additionally, public land fees remain a controversial policy in Washington State and one that may be in flux. Very recently, the majority leader of the Washington State House of Representatives, Lynn Kessler (D), announced that she will introduce legislation in the winter of 2006 to eliminate access fees at Washington State Parks (Freiderich 2005). Second, with the exception of the More and Stevens (2000) and Burns (2002), virtually all of the research regarding the impact of fees do not use general-population surveys but rather on-site interviews. This involves handing out surveys to be completed – or later mailed in – at trailheads, boat launches and campground. The key weakness in this approach is that the sample pool is self-selected and is not a genuine socio-economic cross-section of the population – the respondents are people who had already made the choice to go to public lands. Therefore, an on-site survey might have significantly different results from a general population survey that contacts people who have already been deterred from visiting public lands. Indeed, a U.S. Forest Service report found that support for fees was almost twice as high when surveys were conducted solely at recreation sites where fees were charged compared to general population surveys or surveys conducted at non-fee sites (Williams and Black 2002). Finally, another area in which the existing literature is somewhat thin is that most surveys, again with More and Stevens (2000) excepted, inquire about fees at specific parks or public-land types, rather than looking at fees being charged at a range of public
land areas. Given that not only federal lands now charge fees, but also state parks in many locations, it is important to examine the impact of fees from the perspective of the user who is faced with a range of park and fee options.
The following section will examine the methods used to test the research hypothesis of this thesis, which is: public land access fees dissuade some people from visiting public lands and people of lower incomes are more likely to be dissuaded by fees than people of higher incomes. To be more accurate, this thesis is attempting to disprove the null hypothesis that fees do not affect behavior and that income does not play a role in reactions to fees. The method used to study this question was an attitudinal survey of residents of Whatcom County, Washington. This section will examine the study area and then will discuss the research methodology used to conduct the survey. Finally, there will be a discussion of the statistical analysis used to analyze the data. Study Area This research focused on Whatcom County, Washington, and the sample pool consisted of county residents. Whatcom County is located in the far northwest corner of Washington State and shares its northern border with Canada. It is home to a wide variety of public lands (Figure 2). The eastern portion of the county is entirely dominated by two federal land holdings: North Cascades National Park and the Mt. BakerSnoqualmie National Forest. Scattered throughout the western half of the county are various other public land units, including a number of state parks, county parks, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife areas, and various urban parks such as Bellingham City Parks.
Figure 2- Study Area Whatcom County, Washington
DETAIL OF BELLINGHAM AREA
Maps created using ArcMap in the Spatial Analysis Lab of Western Washington University in 2004-5 by Michael Kirshenbaum using publicly available data sets.
Until the mid 1990s, most of the public lands in Whatcom County were available for visitation free-of-charge. But the situation has changed dramatically in recent years and residents of Whatcom County currently pay a fee for access to many public land areas. It is important to note, however, that fees are not charged at all access points. Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, for example, has a number of trailheads and other day-use areas for which no fee is charged. Fees are still charged at the majority of access points, however, and at virtually all of the most popular recreation sites. Although the study area for this thesis is Whatcom County, the survey questions do not inquire solely about public lands in the county. All of the respondents for the survey were drawn from the county, but I did not limit my questioning to their experiences at public lands only in the county. Residents are likely to use public lands in many areas and the issues surrounding public land fees are just as pertinent for the public lands in those areas. Methodology To examine the impact of public land access fees on the attitudes and behavior of Whatcom County residents, I conducted an attitudinal survey using standard survey research techniques. Survey research was the most appropriate methodology for this project because it is a time-tested technique for measuring human behaviors and attitudes (Salant and Dillman 1994; Nardi 2003). It would have been almost impossible, for example, to set up an actual experiment with two parks – one that charges fees and one that doesn’t – and then hold all other factors constant in order to analyze the role that fees play. An attitudinal survey, in contrast, allowed for a careful probing of people’s
attitudes and behaviors regarding public land access fees. Additionally, survey research has been used in a number of other studies to examine the impact of public land access fees. Survey research has been likened to a telescope looking at society – it is the use of scientific tools to gain a picture, small perhaps but hopefully accurate, of human attitudes and behaviors (Featherman 2004). To use the telescope of survey research accurately, however, requires proper design and adjustment of the instrument. Thus, there are a number of steps in designing an effective survey and reducing the likelihood of error. The design steps include: deciding what information will be collected and therefore what the variables will be; choosing a survey method; selecting a sample size and method; developing a survey instrument (questionnaire); conducting the survey; and finally compiling and analyzing the results (Salant and Dillman 1994; Bourque and Fielder 2003; Nardi 2003; Featherman 2004). All of the design steps must be carefully taken to minimize the impact of four potential errors in survey research: 1. Coverage error: A large and important discrepancy between the target population and the subset being examined produces coverage error. For example, using just a phone book to generate telephone numbers might produce unacceptably high coverage error because of unlisted numbers not being represented in the sample pool. 2. Sampling error: This is the difference between results obtained from examining a sample compared to the results that would be obtained from examining the entire
population. All surveys have sampling error, but the goal is to minimize it as much as possible. 3. Measurement error: Problems caused by questionnaire wording, the survey method, the interviewer or the respondent can all contribute to measurement error. For example, a question that has vague, highly-subjective wording that might be interpreted differently by each respondent could introduce high measurement error. 4. Non-response error: If a survey has a large number of people who were selected and not interviewed, and if those people who refused differed in some pertinent way from those who did respond, then there is non-response error. Non-response error leads to a sample pool that is not representative of the population and therefore not truly random. There is always some degree of non-response error because surveys never have 100 percent response rates. This error is mitigated by obtaining the highest response rate possible and ensuring that the non-respondents do not differ in some key way (i.e. more low-income people did not respond than upper-income people) that is pertinent to the research. Next, I will explain this project’s design and the steps taken to minimize the effect of these potential errors. Project Design: Key Information and Variables Surveys can have an infinite number of questions but it is critical to identify the key concepts that a survey is seeking to understand and design the survey accordingly. For this survey, the key concepts are the parameters needed to test this project’s hypothesis: determining whether Whatcom County residents are dissuaded from using
public lands by access fees and whether income plays a role in how people react to fees. Therefore, it was important to collect information on both reaction to public land access fees and the demographics of survey respondents. There are numerous potential reactions to public land access fees, but the pertinent issues for the purposes of this thesis are: • • Do fees affect how people use public lands? What are people’s attitudes about paying fees, both in terms of the appropriateness of fees and the economics of paying fees? • How are the above questions affected by income or other demographic characteristics? To be more specific, I used the above questions to generate a list of dependent and independent variables that would serve as the basis for constructing the survey instrument. The dependent variables measure how fees affect the following behaviors: frequency of visitation; site selection; fee evasion; and the economic difficulty of paying fees to visit public lands. Additional dependent variables measure the following attitudes: support or opposition to fees as a method of funding public lands; and the appropriateness of charging fees in the context of public versus private goods. The primary independent variables measure standard demographic characteristics, such as gender, age, income, education, and location. A secondary set of independent variables measure outdoor behavior proclivity (hiker, hunter, biker, etc.). The independent and dependent variables were then used in bivariate and multivariate statistical analysis, as will soon be discussed in the Statistical Analysis section.
Project Design: Survey type There are a number of methods for conducting survey research, including telephone, mail, and internet surveys. All methods have pros and cons, but telephone surveying is considered a top choice because it has significant advantages in reducing errors (Salant and Dillman 1994; Nardi 2003): First, a telephone survey is usually the quickest survey method, minimizing the impact of intervening events changing the research environment. Second, unlike in mail or internet surveys, telephone surveys are usually implemented by trained callers and the interaction between the respondent and the survey instrument is highly controlled. With a mail survey, for example, a potential respondent may “read ahead” and decide whether they will participate or not based upon the content of the survey. With telephone surveys, there is only a short introductory statement before a respondent decides whether he or she will participate. This reduces the likelihood that respondents will self-select based on attitudes towards the survey topic. Additionally, a telephone survey allows for the respondents to ask for clarification of questions or answer categories (Salant and Dillman 1994; Nardi 2003). The disadvantages of telephone surveys include: cost, because of the significant labor and equipment requirements; and telephone surveys are not the preferred method when the survey asks sensitive or private questions. As explained below, the cost issue was mitigated by the creative recruitment of labor and the sensitivity issue was not relevant because of the generally innocuous nature of questions regarding public lands. Additionally, there are coverage error concerns with telephone surveys, as with all surveys. Not all people have telephones, such as the homeless or those who cannot afford or choose not to have telephones. However the penetration rate of telephones is
quite high, with 95 percent of residences in Washington State having telephones (NTIA 1999). Cell phones are not included in the sample pool because of the uncertain ethics of calling phone numbers which charge the receiver for the call (Gillin 2002).7 These gaps in the ability of a telephone survey to reach all people, therefore, introduce a small degree of coverage error. This potential deficiency, however, is mitigated by the higher response rate and other beneficial factors of telephone surveys compared to other methods. Project Design: Sample method For this project, I used a general population survey of a random sample of Whatcom County residents. There is relatively little research that has been conducted regarding access fees that has used a general population survey approach. Rather, most of the survey research on this topic has used site-specific samples conducted at trailheads, campgrounds and other public-land access points (More and Stevens 2000; Williams and Black 2002). The disadvantage of using on-site surveys is that this method limits the potential respondents only to those people who are already using the public lands. A general population survey, conversely, allows for sampling the attitudes of all people and may capture those who have been dissuaded from using public lands, a critical subgroup for testing the hypothesis of this thesis. Conducting a general population survey, therefore, necessitated a random sampling method for the entire study area of Whatcom County, Washington. For a general population telephone survey, the sample pool normally consists of all residential telephone numbers in the given study area. The sampling method used for this survey
The omission of cell phone’s from telephone surveys is a growing concern in the survey research field and there is fear that younger people, many of whom rely on cell phones as their primary telephone service, may become underrepresented in surveys if current trends continue.
was a stratified random sample with an oversampling of phone numbers from lowerincome areas of the county. This was done to ensure that there would be enough respondents from lower-income households to perform robust statistical analysis. A similar method was used in a previous access-fee study (More and Stevens 2000). A stratified sample is not a true random sample because some types of people, in this case low-income, are over-represented in the sample pool. Therefore it may be better to consider this method as providing a study-specific sample that cannot be generalized to the larger population. On the other hand, the stratified sample used for this survey resulted in a fairly accurate representation of Whatcom County demographics, as compared to the 2000 U.S. Census (see Results section below), therefore the sample could be considered to be representative of the general population. The sample pool of phone numbers was generated by a survey database company, Survey Sampling International (SSI), using a random-digit-dial (RDD) technique. RDD uses a computer to randomly generate the final four digits of phone numbers in assigned prefix areas. SSI also screened the calls for disconnected numbers and businesses, although this screening missed a high percentage of such invalid numbers. The project had a sample size target of 300 respondents. This total was based on survey research statistical guidelines that show, for a population of more than 100,000 (Whatcom County has a population of 166,814 according to the 2000 Census), a sample size of 300 produces a sampling error of plus or minus five percent at the 95 percent confidence level (Salant and Dillman 1994). In other words, I can claim that this research is 95 percent confident that the results of the survey are within plus or minus five percent of the results for the actual population. To explain this concept using an
example: Consider a survey that shows support for Candidate A at 55 percent and support for Candidate B at 45 percent with a sampling error of four percent at the 95 percent confidence interval. That means that the survey researcher could state that they are 95 percent confident that, if the entire population were surveyed, support for Candidate A would be between 51 and 59 percent and support for Candidate B would be between 41 and 49 percent. Project Design: Survey Instrument Construction The process of translating a general research problem into discrete survey questions is called operationalizing. This involves taking the dependent and independent variables – response to public land access fees and demographic information – and converting them into a questionnaire, known as a survey instrument. Question design is a complex task. To minimize measurement error, the questions must be written in a way that reduces subjective interpretation of the wording and is clear and accessible to the respondents. One method of determining appropriate language is to conduct focus groups in order to scope the range and style of language used by potential respondents (Salant and Dillman 1994; Nardi 2003). This project did not include focus groups, however, due to time and cost limitations Another method of good survey design is to examine existing research and adopt previously tested language. I examined several previous surveys regarding public land fees and adopted some of the language from those survey instruments (More and Stevens 2000; Burns, Graefe et al. 2002). Another step to reduce measurement error and design good questions is to pre-test the survey and then make adjustments to the wording of questions based on the
experience of reading the questions to pseudo-respondents (Bourque and Fielder 2003). A pre-test was conducted for this project and provided useful fine-tuning of the questions. Question order is also an important consideration for survey construction. This survey began by asking users a series of questions about what types of public lands they use and what types of activities they do at those public lands. The objectives of these preliminary questions were two-fold: First, the questions provided useful information about the interests of respondents that could be used for statistical analysis (i.e.: Do backpackers support fees more or less than hunters?). Second, and primarily, these questions were asked at the beginning of the survey in order to stimulate recall of visitation to public lands in advance of the more important questions about public land access fees. Encouraging recall through introductory questions is a recommended technique in survey research (Salant and Dillman 1994; Nardi 2003). The second half of the survey asked a series of questions about public land access fees. These questions can be divided into two categories: behavioral and attitudinal. The behavioral questions focused on whether people changed their actions because of access fees, such as going to parks without fees or going to parks less because of fees. The other questions examined attitudes towards fees, including whether it is difficult to pay fees and whether it is appropriate for fees to be charged. The survey features multiple questions for each of these categories so that the respondent’s attitudes can be assessed from a variety of angles. Asking multiple questions in order to assess attitudes and behaviors is based on the “scaling” survey technique. The advantage of scaling is that it avoids oversimplification and allows for the integration of a series of questions into the analysis of how people think and behave about an issue (Salant and Dillman 1994).
Lastly, the survey turned to demographic questions, most of which serve as the independent variables for the statistical analysis. It is common survey practice to ask the demographic questions at the end of a survey because these are relatively easy questions for tired respondents to answer (Nardi 2003). Project Design: Conducting the survey The interviewers for the survey consisted of myself and 11 undergraduate students. The students participated in the survey as part of a one-credit independent study course in survey research methodology taught by Professor Grace Wang. The assignments for the class consisted of approximately ten hours of phone calling for this project. To minimize the effects of measurement error that can be produced by the interviewers, all of the callers were trained in survey research interviewing techniques through readings, lectures and instruction by a professional survey researcher, Dr. Pamela Jull. Additionally, all of the calling took place under supervision so that any clarifications needed by callers or respondents could be quickly addressed and then shared with the entire group of interviewers to ensure consistent application of the survey instrument. The telephone survey was conducted over the course of May, 2005. Calls were primarily made in the early evening hours of weekdays (6:00 – 9:00pm), but some calling was conducted on weekends and during afternoons. All calling was conducted at Western Washington University (WWU) using the school’s computers and telephone equipment. The survey instrument was loaded onto WWU’s computer server using Perseus Survey Solutions software, a web-based survey software package. The interviewers then accessed the survey via the internet, read the questions from the
computer monitor and entered the results via mouse and keyboard. The software compiled the results into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, which was then imported into SPSS 13.0 for data analysis. Statistical Analysis I used several statistical techniques in this project to analyze the survey data. First, I used univariate descriptive statistical techniques, such as frequencies, to examine broad patterns of response to the survey questions. This technique allowed for measuring the overall response to the questions, from all of the people who were interviewed, without regards to how various subgroups answered the question differently. Next, I examined the data using bivariate techniques to assess relationships between the independent variables, such as income, and dependent variables, such as reaction to fees. The answers to each question can be analyzed to show how respondents from different income groups answered the questions; for example, what percentage of low-income respondents, compared to upper-income respondents, are opposed to fees? This method is called “crosstabulation” and is a very simple but useful technique that allows for an introductory exploration of the results to find associations between variables. Another advantage of crosstabulation is that it is ideally suited for nominal or ordinal data (Nardi 2003). To test the hypothesis of this thesis, it was necessary to use more advanced, multivariate statistical techniques to determine to what extent income, versus other characteristics, played a role in how respondents answered the questions. Therefore, I used linear and logistic regression to examine the role of income versus other independent variables. Regression works best with data that are at the interval or ratio
measurement levels, yet it is still possible to use this technique to analyze survey research. Doing so involves converting answer categories with equal appearing intervals into a numerical scale (Nardi 2003). For example, suppose a survey question has five answer categories such as: (1) strongly agree, (2) somewhat agree, (3) neither agree nor disagree, (4) somewhat disagree or (5) strongly disagree. These answer categories have equal-appearing differences between them. Each answer category can then be coded as one through five and those values can then be used in a linear regression. So if someone answers “somewhat agree” to a question, the value for that variable would be two. A potential problem with using linear regression is that several of the questions in the survey did not have answer categories with equal-appearing intervals. A logistic regression was used to analyze the results for these questions. The reason for this is linear regression cannot use dichotomous dependent variables (for example, did or did not buy a parking pass). Linear regression allows dependent variables to have values of greater than one or less than zero, and with dichotomous variables the values can only be zero or one. A logistic regression, however, operates only within the zero to one range and therefore is more appropriate for dichotomous variables (Pampel 2000). Another potential roadblock to using regression analysis is that not all of the independent variables produced interval- or ratio-level data. Some of the variables, such as location (rural / urban) and sex (male / female), are purely nominal-level data which are not compatible with regression analysis. Therefore I used “dummy variables” in order to convert the data for the regression. Creating dummy variables allows for the representation of qualitative, or nominal, information in quantitative terms that can then be plugged into a regression analysis. Defining dummy variables involves creating a set
of dichotomous, true / false variables that represents all of the categories of the base variables (Hardy 1993). For example, the independent variable of gender has two nominal answer categories (male / female) that cannot be ranked or given a numerical value in any way and are thus impossible to use in a regression. Converting the variable into a dichotomous true / false statement, with true equaling one and false equaling zero, produces a value that can be plugged into a regression. Thus, nominal- or ordinal-level answer scales are converted into a series of ratio-level variables. One important note on dummy variables is that there is always one less dummy variable created than the total number of answer categories in the original base variable. Using the gender question example again, if we created a dummy variable category for respondents answering “female,” with those saying female receiving a value of one (true) and those saying male receiving a value of zero (not true), then we would not need to create a “male” dummy variable with the opposite values. The reason for this is because of the regression rule that explanatory variables cannot be written to form a perfect linear combination of variables, in order to avoid redundancy (Hardy 1993). Therefore, in the results section the reader will note that there appears to be several variables absent from the regression coefficient tables. Only a “female” variable is listed, but not a “male” variable, and there are only variables for two of the three income categories. The “male” variable or the “upper income” variable are not present by design – all of the missing variables form a reference group from which the visible variables can be compared. One final note to avoid confusion when looking at the regression tables: there are several variables labeled “missing” in the tables. These are not the missing dummy variables as described above but rather refer to all respondents who did not answer
certain questions. For example, the variable Income Missing refers to all of the nonresponses – people who refused to answer or hung up early – to that demographic question.
This section examines the results to the key questions in the survey. First, I will provide a summary of the most important results. Next, will be a discussion of the survey’s response rate, followed by an overview of the demographics of the survey respondents. Finally, there is a presentation of the results from the primary survey questions regarding the attitudes and behaviors of people towards public land access fees. Please note that results for every question are not reported here – some of the survey questions had wording problems or were not relevant to the overall analysis. The complete results for the entire survey can be found in the appendix. Summary of Key Findings In general, this survey interviewed a fairly representative sample of the Whatcom County population. Most of the respondents are very involved in outdoor activities, visit public lands frequently and are aware of public land access fees. While there are consistent majorities who support fees or do not find fees to affect how often they use public lands, there is a sizeable minority who are negatively affected by fees. That minority is disproportionately made up of lower-income residents. Some of the specifics are: • The survey found that there is wide exposure to public land access fees in Whatcom County with 60 percent reporting having paid an access fee for public lands. • Approximately 50 to 60 percent of respondents reported, over a series of questions, that fees do not affect their behavior.
About 30 to 40 percent of respondents reported, over a series of questions, being negatively affected by fees – meaning they were dissuaded from using public lands that charge fees or found it hard to pay fees.
Income is consistently the most important variable in predicting response to fees. Lower-income respondents reported being much more negatively affected by fees than respondents from the middle and upper income groups. These findings are statistically significant (p < 0.05) for most of the questions.
The questions regarding the appropriateness of charging fees did not follow the pattern of major differentiation between income groups and did not generate statistically significant results. In general, the results showed majorities supporting the policy of using fees to pay for public lands.
Response Rate A total of 1,386 phone numbers were called during the survey (Table 3). Of those, there were 648 valid contacts with 301 completed calls for a response rate of 46
Table 3 – Calling Results Completed calls Refused No answer/ Voice Mail / Busy Callback Total valid contacts Bad # Unable to respond (language) Max attempts (5 calls) Total invalid contacts Total telephone #s called: Response rate (completes / valid contacts) 301 249 91 7 648 546 33 159 738 1386 46%
Figure 3 – Response Rate
CC ________________ RR = Total valid contacts: CC+R+NA+CB RR = Response rate CC = Completed calls R = Refused to participate NA = No answer / voice mail / line busy CB = Call back scheduled
percent. The response rate was calculated using the formula shown in Figure 3. Each respondent did not necessarily answer all of the questions – some refused to answer certain questions and a few hung-up in the middle of the survey. Therefore, there are less than 301 responses for most of the questions. There is no standard response rate level – it depends on many factors (method, subject, time, resources) but the higher the better (Fink 2003). Demographics In general, the demographic results obtained in the survey track fairly closely to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2000 results for Whatcom County (U.S.-Census-Bureau 2000). One important note is that for the purposes of the statistical analysis of this research, much of the demographic data are aggregated into broader categories, i.e. income into three categories of low-, middle-, and high-income. The aggregation categories for income, as well as other demographics such as age, are not based on any preconceived definitions – i.e. “low income” does not correspond to the federal poverty level. Rather, I created the subgroups to test whether there is a difference in reaction to fees based on a range of incomes. For the purposes of testing the hypothesis, it is less important to discover how the “poor,” as defined by the federal government, react to fees than it is to examine whether fees affect people differently based on a range of incomes.
(continued on next page)
The following is a summary of the main demographic results: • Household income: The survey results are very close (max variance < 5%) to the 2000 Census data:
Table 4 – Household Income in Whatcom County
Survey Survey 2000 Census Frequency % % Low Income 120 40.3% 43.6% $0-34,999 Middle Income 114 38.3% 38.2% $35,000-74,999 High Income 41 13.8% 18.2% $75,000+ Refused 23 7.7% n/a Subtotal 298 100.0% 100.0% Missing 3 Total 301
A binomial test comparing the sample and the Census data found that there were no statistically significant differences for the income categories with the exception of for the high income category. • Education level: The survey had a more highly-educated sample with 75 percent of respondents with at least some college-level education compared to 60 percent in the 2000 Census. A binomial test shows that there is a statistically significant difference between the sample and the Census. • Age: The survey respondents were slightly older than what is reported in the 2000 census, but the differences are small:
Table 5 - Age Results
Survey 18 – 34 years 35 – 54 years 55 or over 29% 40% 30%
2000 Census 36% 38% 24%
A binomial test found that there is a statistically significant difference between the survey sample and the Census data for the 18-34 and 55 or over groups. • Race: The survey sample has 90 percent reporting being “white.” This compares to 88 percent for the 2000 Census. This difference is not statistically significant. • Gender: 61 percent reported being female and 39 percent male in the survey. These results are somewhat different from the 2000 Census, which reports 51 percent female and 49 male. It is not uncommon for females to respond to telephone surveys at a higher rate than males, and the gender difference in this survey is consistent with previous survey research (Dillman 1978). A binomial test shows a statistically significant difference between the Census data and survey sample. Results for General Outdoor Usage Questions These questions examined which types of public lands, as defined by agency, respondents frequented in the past year and what types of activities they did at these public lands. These questions were asked at the beginning of the survey to stimulate memory of using public lands before asking the important fee questions. Additionally, the answers to these questions provided another set of characteristics to use as independent variables. • Public land usage question: “Please tell me whether you have visited this type of area since May of last year:” The results show that city parks top the list with 73 percent (Figure 4). Additionally, 97 percent reported visiting at least one of the different types of public lands in the past year.
Figure 4 - Public Land Usage
100% 75% Percent answering that they have visited 50% the following land types in the previous year 25% 0%
Ci ty pa Na rk tio s na lF or es Co ts un ty Pa rk s St at e pa rk s O th er Pa rk Na s tio na lp ar ks
65% 50% 42%
Activity question: “Please tell me which of these you like to do:” The results (Figure 5) show that Whatcom County residents engage in a wide-range of activities at public lands.
Figure 5 – Outdoor activities in the past year
Tell me if you like to do any of the following activities
87% 75% 61% 59% 53% 42% 35% 28%
Percent answering "yes"
50% 25% 0%
g Bi ni cy gh cl in tb g ac kp ac ki n
ic ki ng
pi ng am
Fi sh in
The final general outdoor usage question asked whether people visit parks as often as they would like. The results of that question found that only 39 percent reported
O ve r
un t in g
ik in g
going to parks “as often as they would like.” The survey then asked why they don’t go as often as they would like. By far the most important reason was being too busy, with 86 percent responding that they “don’t have enough time.” In an effort to begin to understand to what extent economics play a role in decisions about visiting parks, the respondents were also asked if one of the reasons for not going often was “You can’t afford to go?” Twenty-seven percent said this was a reason they don’t go to parks as often as they would like.
Results for Behavioral Fee Questions Q: How does the requirement to pay a fee affect how often you go to those places? It is clear from the first question about fees – which asked whether people go to public lands the same, less often or more often because of fees – that fees affect the behavior of some people: Nearly 38 percent of the respondents reported decreased visitation to public lands because of fees. Cross-tabulating the data to examine how the different income groups answered the question shows that a much higher percentage of the lower-income group (49.6 percent) reports going less often because of fees than the other income groups. As the chart shows (Figure 6), there is a clear linear trend related to income and response to the question – the bar representing “go less often” decreases as income increases. In other words, the deterrent effect of fees is most strongly seen for lower income group and most weakly reported by the upper income group.
Figure 6 How does the requirement to pay a fee affect how often you go to those places?
Go Less Often
Go Same / More Often
49.6% 50.5% 34.5%
0% Low (0 $34,999) Middle ($35 High 74,999) ($75,000+)
A logistic regression of this question examined the relative strength of all of the demographic independent variables in answering the question. The results show (Table 6) that the low-income variable has the highest coefficient and is the only variable, besides the missing income variable8, to be statistically significant (p < 0.01). The positive coefficient can be understood to mean that there is a positive relationship between the “go less often” variable and the “low income” variable. Conversely, there is a negative relationship between the “college educated” variable and the “go less often” variable.
The missing income variable (Income - missing) tabulates those who refused to answer the question or who ended the survey before answering this question. It is possible that people with lower incomes would be more likely to refuse to answer the question to avoid embarrassment. If this were true, it would explain the finding that the missing income variable has the second strongest association to going to parks less often because of fees. But since there is no way of proving this point, the missing income variable should be ignored.
Table 6 - Fees and visitation question How does the requirement at some parks to pay a parking or entry fee affect how often you go to those places? Logistic Regression (0 = go the same / more often; 1 = go less often)
B Income – low ($0 - $34,999) Income – middle ($35 - $74,999) Income – missing Age – young (18-34 yrs) Age – middle (35-55 yrs) Age – missing Race – white Education – college Gender – female Location – Bellingham Constant * Significant at the p < 0.05 level ** Significant at the p< 0.01 level 1.265** .786 1.217* .201 .141 -.213 -.578 -.333 .402 .076 -1.081 S.E. .448 .451 .588 .332 .303 1.026 .385 .291 .265 .249 .632 Sig. .005 .081 .039 .544 .641 .835 .134 .252 .129 .759 .087 Exp(B) 3.542 2.195 3.376 1.223 1.152 .808 .561 .717 1.494 1.079 .339
Q: In the past year, have you avoided going to any parks because there was a parking fee? The next question asked if the respondents had avoided any parks because of fees in the year leading up to the survey. The overall results show that 22 percent answered affirmatively. A cross-tabulation examining how the different income groups answered this question shows (Figure 7) that lower-income respondents were much more likely to say they had avoided parks because of fees than the higher income groups.
Figure 7 – Avoidance of paying a fee in the past year
In the past year, have you avoided going to any public lands because there was a parking fee?
40% Percent within each income group answering "yes" 30% 20% 10% 0%
Low (0 - $34,999)
Middle ($35 74,999)
A logistic regression analysis similarly shows income to be the most important factor. In this case, the “missing” income variable has a stronger association, but the low-income variable is close behind (Table 7). Both are statistically significant (p < 0.05).
Table 7 – Avoidance of paying a fee In the past year, have you avoided going to any parks because there was a parking fee? Logistic regression (0= no; 1 = yes)
B Income – low ($0 - $34,999) Income – middle ($35 - $74,999) Income – missing Age – young (18-34 yrs) Age – middle (35-55 yrs) Age – missing Race – white Education – college Gender – female Location – Bellingham Constant * Significant at the p < 0.05 level ** Significant at the p< 0.01 level 1.471* .384 1.936** .057 -.021 -1.120 -.625 -.447 .111 .285 -1.533 S.E. .574 .599 .695 .380 .357 1.277 .417 .327 .309 .290 .760 Sig. .010 .521 .005 .881 .953 .380 .134 .173 .720 .326 .044 Exp(B) 4.354 1.469 6.934 1.059 .979 .326 .535 .640 1.117 1.330 .216
Q: Have you ever avoided paying fees by going to another park that doesn’t charge fees? The next question asked whether the respondents altered their site selection in order to go to a park that didn’t charge fees. The overall results show that 36 percent of the respondents avoid fees by going to a park that doesn’t charge fees. The cross-tabulation for this question shows that members of the lower-income group were much more likely to choose free parks than the higher income groups ( Figure 8). A logistic regression analysis found that the low-income variable has the strongest statistically significant association (p < 0.01) with answering affirmatively, but it also shows that the middle income group has a significant, but weaker, association (Table 8). Interestingly, residents of Bellingham also reported altering their site location to avoid fees at a statistically significant level (p < 0.05).
Percent w ithin income group answ ering "yes"
Figure 8 – Altered site selection
Have you ever avoi ded payi ng fees by going to another park that doesn't charge fees ?
60% 46% 40% 32% 17%
0% Low (0 $34,999) Middle ($35 74,999) High ($75,000+)
Table 8 – Altered site selection Q: Have you ever avoided paying fees by going to a park that doesn't charge fees? Logistic Regression (0= no; 1 = yes)
B Income – low ($0 - $34,999) Income – middle ($35 - $74,999) Income – missing Age – young (18-34 yrs) Age – middle (35-55 yrs) Age – missing Race – white Education – college Gender – female Location – Bellingham Constant * Significant at the p < 0.05 level ** Significant at the p< 0.01 level 1.614** .973* 1.659** .585 .483 .544 -.111 .131 -.458 .535* -2.136 S.E. .474 .473 .613 .341 .315 1.058 .393 .298 .267 .255 .660 Sig. .001 .040 .007 .086 .125 .607 .778 .661 .086 .036 .001 Exp(B) 5.025 2.646 5.253 1.796 1.620 1.723 .895 1.140 .633 1.708 .118
Q: Do you ever avoid fees by parking outside of the official parking lots and walking in? The final behavioral question asked whether respondents park outside of official parking lots and then walk in to avoid paying parking fees. This is a common practice in the Bellingham area as seen on weekends along entrances to Larrabee State Park. Thirtyseven percent responded affirmatively to this question. The crosstabulated data and a logistic regression show that income does not play a role, but age does ( Table 9).
Younger respondents were much more likely to answer in the affirmative and the finding is highly significant (p < .01). A possible explanation for this is that younger people are more able, because of being fit and willing, to park at some distance from a destination and then walk in to avoid complying with the fee system.
Table 9 – Walk-in to avoid fees Q: Do you ever avoid paying fees by parking outside the official parking lots and walking in? Logistic regression (0 = no; 1 = yes)
B Income – low ($0 - $34,999) Income – middle ($35 - $74,999) Income – missing Age – young (18-34 yrs) Age – middle (35-55 yrs) Age – missing Race – white Education – college Gender – female Location – Bellingham Constant ** Significant at the p< 0.01 level .350 .533 -.389 1.369** .502 -19.992 -.540 -.123 -.061 .083 -.924 S.E. .413 .410 .686 .343 .320 16202.824 .389 .298 .264 .254 .629 Sig. .397 .194 .571 .000 .116 .999 .165 .680 .818 .745 .142 Exp(B) 1.419 1.703 .678 3.933 1.653 .000 .583 .884 .941 1.086 .397
Results for Attitudinal Fee Questions This set of questions explored the respondents’ opinions regarding the difficulty and appropriateness of paying access fees. Some of these questions presented an answer scale with equal-appearing intervals and thus linear regression is used for these questions. Q: Paying a fee is economically hard for me to do. The first question asked whether paying a fee is economically difficult. The overall results show that 30 percent either somewhat or strongly agreed with the statement that paying a fee is “economically hard for me to do” while 61 percent either somewhat or strongly disagreed with the statement. An examination of the data using income as a factor demonstrates that a significant percentage of the low-income group (45%) agreed that paying fees is economically difficult (Figure 9). Strikingly, none of the high-income respondents agreed that paying a fee is difficult.
Figure 9 – Economic difficulty of paying fees
Paying a fee is economically hard for me to do
Percent within income group to either "strongly" or "somewhat strongly" agree
40% 24% 20%
0% Low (0 - $34,999) Middle ($35 - 74,999)
0 High ($75,000+)
A linear regression confirms that there is a highly significant relationship (p < 0.01) with the low income and middle income variables (Table 10). The Beta coefficient for the low-income variable is twice as strong as for the middle income variable, showing the strongest effect on the lowest income group. Note that these associations are negative which is explained by the values assigned to the answer categories. The answer “strongly agree” has a value of one and the dichotomous dummy variable for the income categories also has a value of one. Therefore the regression line has a downward slope, showing that the more strongly a respondent disagreed with the
Table 10- Economic difficulty of paying fees Paying a fee is economically hard for me to do. Linear regression (1= strongly agree. . . 5= strongly disagree)
Income – low ($0 - $34,999) Income – middle ($35 - $74,999) Income – missing Age – young (18-34 yrs) Age – middle (35-55 yrs) Age – missing Race – white Education – college Gender – female Location – Bellingham Constant ** Significant at the p< 0.01 level
t -6.605 -3.223 -2.664 .718 -.555 -1.113 .136 1.751 -.549 -.316 11.372
Sig. .000 .001 .008 .473 .580 .267 .892 .081 .584 .752 .000
-.558** -.267** -.182** .048 -.036 -.066 .008 .098 -.031 -.017
question, the less likely they were to be in the low income group. Q: I am opposed to paying fees so I don’t like to go to parks that charge fees. The next question asked whether respondents are opposed to paying fees and therefore avoid parks that charge fees. This question is both behavioral and attitudinal, because it inquired about opposition to fees as well as of avoidance of parks that have fees. In hindsight, the dual nature of the question is a mistake and the results should be interpreted with care. Still, it is worth including in the analysis because it is the only question that used the word “oppose” and therefore may be a good indicator of outright resistance to fees. The overall results show that a majority of people are not opposed to paying fees: only 34 percent of the respondents either somewhat or strongly agreed with the statement, and 55 percent either somewhat or strongly disagreed. An examination of the data using income groups as the reference, however, shows (Figure 10) that a significantly larger number of low-income respondents (39%) are opposed to paying fees compared to the upper income group (20%).
Figure 9 – Opposition to fees
I am opposed to paying fees so I don't like to go to those parks that charge fees
Percent within each income group to either "strongly" or "somewhat strongly" agree
39% 32% 20%
0% Low (0 - $34,999) Middle ($35 - 74,999) High ($75,000+)
A linear regression of the results shows that the low-income group has a statistically significant (p < 0.05) negative relationship to the question. Interestingly, there is a highly statistically significant (p < 0.01) positive relationship between the college educated group and the question, showing that there is less opposition and avoidance of fees from the more highly educated group (Table 11).
Table 11- Opposition to fees Q: I am opposed to paying fees at parks so I don’t like to go to those parks that charge fees Linear regression (1=strongly agree . . . 5=strongly disagree)
Beta Income – low ($0 - $34,999) Income – middle ($35 - $74,999) Income – missing Age – young (18-34 yrs) Age – middle (35-55 yrs) Age – missing Race – white Education – college Gender – female Location – Bellingham Constant * Significant at the p < 0.05 level ** Significant at the p< 0.01 level -.254** -.164 -.160* .078 .032 -.017 .105 .217** .046 -.017 t -2.884 -1.892 -2.228 1.118 .480 -.271 1.807 3.665 .786 -.304 6.302 Sig. .004 .060 .027 .264 .632 .786 .072 .000 .433 .761 .000
Q: Do you think that going to public lands should be totally free, like going to a library, or that it’s okay to charge entry fee, like going to a movie? Finally, the survey asked two questions regarding the appropriateness of charging fees. The first question asked whether public lands should be treated like public libraries, with free access, or whether it’s acceptable to charge for entry, like going to a movie. The overall results show a somewhat split opinion, with 49 percent saying that it’s okay to charge fees and 43 percent saying entry should be free, like libraries. Examining the answers based on income shows that the upper income group is very supportive of 57
charging entry fees, with 65 percent of this group in favor of fees and only 28 percent saying parks should be free. A plurality of the lower-income group believes parks should be free of charge (Figure 11). A logistic regression and chi-square analysis, however, do not find these results to be statistically significant.
Figure 10 – Parks treated like libraries or movie theaters?
Do you think that going to parks and other public lands should be totally free, like going to a public library, or that it's okay to charge fees, like going to a movie?
80% 65% 60% Percent within each 40% income group 20% 0% Low (0 $34,999) Middle ($35 74,999) High ($75,000+) 44% 46% 49% 44% 28%
Okay to charge fees - like movies Should be free like libraries
Q: Do you think operating funds should come primarily through fees, taxes, or a mix? The other appropriateness-to-pay question also failed to find statistically significant results. This question asked whether operating funds should come primarily through fees, primarily through taxes, or from a mix of the two. A regression analysis was not possible for this question because of the answer categories. The overall results shows that a majority (58 percent) favors a mix of the two, with 32 percent believing revenue should come primarily from general taxes, and only 7 percent saying it should come primarily from fees. Income does not appear to play a role in the answers to this
question (Figure 12): 63 percent of the low-income respondents, 54 percent of the middle-income respondents and 59 percent of the upper-income respondents answered that operating funds should come from a mix of fees and taxes.
Figure 11 - Source of funding
Do you think that operating funds should come primarily through . .
Fees Taxes Mix of Fees and Taxes
Percent within income group
5% 8% 10%
Low (0 $34,999) Middle ($35 74,999) High ($75,000+)
Additional Analysis With Extended Independent Variable Model In addition to analyzing the answers to the above questions using a standard demographic model, I also used the answers to the activity question as additional independent variables. Doing so allowed for an examination of whether activity choice plays a role in determining reaction to fees. In other words, the list of independent variables is expanded to include not only characteristics such as age, income, gender, etc. but also to include identifiers such as being a hunter or a hiker. The results show, however, that activity choice appears to play a limited role in responding to fees, with a
few important exceptions (regression tables for the extended model can be found in Appendix B):
In response to the “paying a fee is economically hard for me to do” question, respondents who identified fishing as an activity of choice joined the lower and middle income groups in answering the question affirmatively at a statistically significant level (p < .05).
With regards to the “I am opposed to paying fees, so I don’t like to go to parks that charge fees” question, hunters joined the lower income group as also having a statistically significant response to the question. Interestingly, RV campers joined the college educated group in disagreeing with the question at statistically significant levels.
People who fish also joined the lower income groups as responding affirmatively to the question: “Have you ever avoided paying fees by going to another park that doesn’t charge fees?” Although not as strong of an association as the income variables, the fishing variable is statistically significant (p < .05).
The question concerning avoiding fees by not parking in official lots found the young age group as having a significant relationship in the original model. The expanded model, however, shows that only hikers report this behavior (p < 0.05), which is consistent with observations of hikers parking outside of trailheads and walking in. The fact that the extended model does not show the younger group as having statistically significant results suggests a high level of co-linearity between the young group and the hiking group.
Qualitative Results In addition to the empirical survey data, I also collected qualitative data from some of the respondents. The gathering of these comments was somewhat unscientific – if respondents voiced additional comments while they were answering the survey questions, then I attempted to capture their comments, verbatim, in a Microsoft Word document. To verify the accuracy of the comments, I would then read what I typed back to the respondent and make any changes they requested. I did not make an attempt to solicit comments from all of the callers, therefore these comments should be regarded as anecdotal and only coming from the subset of people who were more outspoken, by nature, or who had strong enough opinions to verbalize additional feedback. Those caveats aside, the comments included here may provide insight to the reasoning and emotions behind attitudes and behaviors concerning fees. Several respondents commented on the economic difficulty of paying fees: “I’m a mother with four small kids and it’s hard for me to pay fees.” “I can remember when we were dirt poor and all we could afford to do was go to parks. So I wish that parks didn’t charge fees.” “I have concerns that if it affects me then for people with less money it might affect them more. It’s hard to find a place to not pay the fee.” “I’m glad you called because I was really disgusted with the fee the last time we went to Larrabee and now we don’t go there any more. As a parent, families with children don’t usually have extra money to go to a park.” “Do I pay $5 for a park or $5 towards the bill for my teeth?” Other respondents had comments regarding the fairness of paying taxes and fees: “I resent the fact that they take my tax money that I pay for these parks and then they make me pay $5 to go have a picnic”
“They should be free; haven’t our tax dollars paid for them already?” “Taxpayers are already paying to keep them and that kindof burns me up, we already paid for it once. They keep raising the taxes and then they come back and want to charge entry fees and I totally disagree with that.” A number of respondents also voiced support for fees, and that attitude was generally tied into support for the upkeep of public lands: “I think if someone uses some place they should pay for it.” “I think fees are okay because they do a lot of good things and keep the parks up for us; they should be kept low for young families. They keep them nice, keep the garbage picked up, the money is used for a good purpose.” “If it’s within reason then I don’t see why not because there’s a need to keep up the park.” “I think it’s okay because it probably helps out with the maintenance of the place; and people would probably live in them if they didn’t have to pay.” “Fees are okay as long as it’s not an outlandish fee because they help maintain the parks and keep them usable.” “I think it’s okay to charge because they have to pay people to keep up the parks. I agree pretty strongly that it’s okay for them to charge people to go to parks.” “I think it’s okay to charge fees, especially if it helps to keep the parks up.” Summary of Results The research results have disproved the null hypothesis that there is not a relationship between fees, visitation patterns, and income. The lower-income group consistently reported being more negatively affected by fees than the higher income groups. The lower-income group responded, at statistically significant levels (p < .05) that they do not use parks as often because of fees, that fees are economically hard to pay,
that they change their site selection because of fees, and that they are opposed to paying fees. Income did not appear to play a role, however, in the attitudinal questions regarding the appropriateness of charging fees. Without considering income effects, there is majority support for fees and most people do not report being negatively affected by fees.
This thesis has investigated the relationship between public land access fees and the treatment of public lands as merit goods. The fundamental nature of parks as merit goods would be called into question if they are no longer available to all citizens, regardless of an ability to pay. Therefore, the research question for this project focused on whether public land access fees affect how people use public lands and whether income level, an indirect measure of ability to pay, is related to the impact of fees. More specifically, this project’s hypothesis is that those with lower incomes would be more likely than upper income individuals to report being dissuaded from using public lands by access fees. Discussion of Results The research conducted for this thesis clearly shows that public land access fees affect how some Whatcom County residents use public lands. This finding is consistent with previous research from different areas of the county. It is also consistent with new data from Washington State Parks, which shows a nearly 20 percent drop-off in visitation to state parks since the inception of fees in 2002 (Freiderich 2005). Indeed, the survey question that asked most directly whether fees affect the frequency of visitation to public lands found that nearly 40 percent of the respondents reported going to parks less often because of fees. Additional questions attempting to more fully understand the impact of fees found a significant number of respondents stating that fees change how they use public lands: 22 percent said that they had avoided going to a park because of a fee in the
previous year; 36 percent said they avoid paying fees by going to parks that don’t charge fees; and 37 percent reported parking outside of official parking lots to avoid paying fees. Regarding the attitudes of Whatcom County residents towards fees, the results are fairly similar. Nearly 30 percent of the respondents agreed with one of the most important survey questions for the purposes of testing the hypothesis: “Paying a fee is economically hard for me to do.” Similarly 33 percent reported being opposed to paying fees and 43 percent said that parks should be treated like another merit good, libraries, with free access. The results also show, however, that support for fees is generally strong, with majorities of between 50 and 60 percent reacting positively towards fees: 54 percent said they were not opposed to fees and nearly 56 percent reported that fees do not affect how often they visit public lands. There was also a majority that supports the appropriateness of charging entry fees and who do not seem concerned about fees as a management policy: 58 percent favor using a mix of taxes and fees to pay for public lands. Taken at face value, these results suggest that most people are not adversely affected by fees and generally approve of using fees as a way to pay for the upkeep of public lands. Yet, when it comes to examining the impact of fees on the democratic nature of public lands, demonstrating simple majority support is insufficient. Alexis de Tocqueville’s famous warning of democracy’s potential for a “tyranny of the majority” should be heeded when considering the impact of public land access fees (Tocqueville 2004). Indeed, majority support for fees does not ensure their consistently with the democratic history and mission of public lands in the United States.
The research presented here shows that fees run counter to the treatment of public lands as merit goods. This is because fees dissuade people from using public lands and because this pressure is not felt equally by all socioeconomic groups. As the results demonstrate, it is clear that the further down the income ladder respondents were, the more likely they were to find fees a barrier to visiting public lands. More specifically, the research findings demonstrate that a significant proportion of lower income residents of Whatcom County find access fees to be a deterrent to visiting public lands and that fees have reduced their usage of public lands or have forced them into difficult economic tradeoffs. One of the most striking results of this research project is that while 45 percent of lower-income respondents said paying a fee is economically difficult, not a single upper income respondent answered the same way. Similarly revealing is that while half of the lower-income respondents reported going to parks less often because of fees, only 18 percent of upper income respondents reported the same. Further, the regression analysis conducted for most of the questions consistently found income to be the most important variable relating to the impact of fees. Fees and the Privatization of Public Lands The findings presented here regarding public land access fees must be viewed within the broader context of the creeping privatization of public lands. As discussed earlier, public land agencies have adopted numerous market-based management practices in recent years, including outsourcing of functions such as maintenance and interpretation; promoting private sponsorship of projects; selling off holdings that do not generate revenue; and shifting the entire budget of public land agencies from general tax
revenue to user fees. Although public ownership of parks and most outdoor recreational areas remains the norm – indeed there has not been a wide sell-off of public lands – there is clearly an erosion of the merit-goods nature of public lands. These market-based changes, including access fees, are often promoted or rationalized as a way to help public lands improve their bottom line and enhance service to the public (Johnson 1991; Hanson 2005). Charging access fees, however, does not appear to always generate new revenue to help land management agencies. There are several reasons why the new fee money is not improving the fiscal bottom line for public land agencies. First, it appears that, in some cases, fee revenue has replaced previously appropriated dollars rather than create new resources. It is difficult to generalize this conclusion to all fee programs throughout the country, but there are some important findings that reinforce it. Congress slashed the U.S. Forest Service’s recreation budget by more than a third between 1996 and 1999, for example, at the same time that the Fee Demo program started (Michlen 2001). Similarly, the Deschutes National Forest in Oregon generated $175,400 in user fees in 1998 and then had its budget for 1999 cut by $175,800 (Michlen 2001). The most striking evidence of fee dollars replacing appropriated dollars is found with state parks. In Kansas, the state legislature has moved from fully supporting state parks to currently only paying for 20 percent of the park agency’s operating budget with increased fees making up the shortfall (Sigman 2005). Currently, Washington State Parks needs to raise 40 percent of its budget from fees, whereas just a few years ago it received virtually all of its funding from the state’s general fund (WSP 2005).
Finally, access fees do not always generate the predicted amount of revenue. Agencies appear to have spent significant sums implementing the program, cutting into the net financial gain from charging fees. A comprehensive 2003 General Accounting Office (GAO) report of the U.S. Forest Service’s implementation of the Fee Demo program, for example, shows that the agency had spent almost as much money on enforcing and promoting access fees as they generated from the fees themselves (GAO 2003). Fees may also affect visitation levels, as seen in Washington State, where visits to state parks have dropped since fees were implemented in 2002. As a result, projected revenue generated by the fee program has been much less than expected (Freiderich 2005). Thus, it appears that the greatest impact of fees has not been to dramatically improve the financial standing of public lands, but rather to shift how society pays for public lands. We are moving from paying for public lands via broad, progressive taxation to user fees that exclude or deter significant segments of society. In some cases, this shift has been incremental, such as with some state park systems and most federal lands, which still receive significant general funding from Congress. But in other cases the shift has been total, such as with Michigan State Parks, which now receives all of its funding from user fees and where land managers must find ways to promote visitation or, in essence, sell their product, in order to fund their budget (Wureful 2003; Stang 2005). This new reality was clearly stated by Mike Hayden, the head of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, when talking about the role that fees have played in that state’s park system: "Every time we raise fees we cut some people out (Sigman 2005).”
A fair debate can be had between ideological opponents about the ethics and efficacy of government services being privatized and government agencies adopting business-like practices. Indeed, the evidence is somewhat inconclusive that fees do not generate new, much needed revenue (GAO 1998; GAO 2003). What is undeniable, however, is that access fees cause public lands to be treated more like private goods – a fundamental change in the history of public land management. If proponents of user fees suggest that there is much to be gained by this change in terms of market-based efficiencies, greater responsiveness to “customer” needs, and perhaps even more funding for land-management agencies, then it is equally important to determine what might be lost by this shift. The research in this thesis clearly shows that what is at jeopardy is something fundamental to parks and other outdoor areas: their public nature. At many parks and other outdoor areas, the many benefits of public lands, so forcefully espoused by Olmsted and others, are no longer available to all citizens, but rather only to those who can pay entry fees. Although some may argue that it seems difficult to believe that a $5 entry fee would prevent someone from visiting a public land (Grewell 2004), this research clearly shows that fees have a deterrent effect. The harsh economic reality facing some people when they consider paying a fee was stated by one survey respondent: “Do I pay $5 for a park or $5 towards the bill for my teeth?” When the nation’s relatively new public land policy of charging fees forces such a tradeoff, then it is undeniable that public lands are no longer as public, or democratic, as they once were.
Limitations of Research There are several limitations to the research presented in this thesis that warrant discussion. First, survey research is a somewhat imperfect tool for determining causeand-effect behavior. It certainly is the most common method for trying to understand behaviors and attitudes, but it falls short of providing the clean research environment of a controlled experiment. Thus, the research presented here is limited by the ability of people to remember their behaviors and the factors that affected their behaviors. The accuracy of responses depends on the respondents’ level of recall and their selfknowledge regarding why they do what they do, i.e. do fees really cause them to reduce their usage of public lands or does it just seem that way when thinking about it in hindsight? Yet, survey research has a long history of effectively explaining attitudes and behaviors and, while perhaps not as accurate as an actual experiment, still provides informative results. As discussed in the Methods section, survey researchers have developed a series of techniques to ensure accuracy and reliability, all of which were employed in this research. Next, there are several ways in which this specific survey project was limited and some survey errors that proved difficult to avoid. Limits on time and money prevented this project from having a larger sample size. A sample of 301 respondents is acceptable, but a higher number of responses would have reduced the error rate. Additionally, the respondents were significantly more likely to be women – not an unusual occurrence in survey research – but more time and resources, and perhaps a different sampling method, could have allowed for a greater gender balance. Given that the regression analysis
showed that gender did not play a significant role in how people respond to fees, this deficiency does not appear to affect the overall findings. If I were to conduct the survey again, I would also change some of the question wording and spend more time on pre-testing questions. There are several questions or statements that were worded negatively (“I don’t mind paying a fee”), that clearly confused respondents when they were asked to agree or disagree with them and there were many requests for clarifications on these questions. Thus, I have a low degree of confidence in the questions that were worded in this fashion and did not include them in the results analysis. The complete survey results can be found in Appendix A. Finally, it would have been ideal to have a higher response rate. Forty-six percent is somewhat below the rate (60 percent) normally expected in a telephone survey (Salant and Dillman 1994), but it is higher than the rate in similar research regarding user fees (More and Stevens 2000). The lower the response rate, the greater potential for error, but it does not appear that the sample differed in any meaningful way from the population, with the exception of gender. Conclusions There is an ongoing debate around public land access fees that is unlikely to subside in the coming years. Reliance upon fees seems to be expanding: the National Park Service recently announced increased entry fees at several nearby parks, with the entry fee for Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Parks rising from $10 to $15 in 2006 (AP 2005). However, fees are also running into significant opposition, as shown by the new proposal to eliminate fees at Washington State Parks (Freiderich 2005). Additionally, the issue of fees discriminating against some socioeconomic groups has been raised by
government officials and citizens as a possible major drawback of access fees (More and Stevens 2000; Nokkentved 2002; Mottram 2004). Access fees represent a profound dilemma for those interested in public lands. Fees may represent a new source of revenue for the upkeep of places that have suffered from years of high use and insufficient funding. Yet, the evidence is mixed, at best, whether fees actually provide additional funding. Regardless of the funding effects of fees, this new policy alters the treatment of public lands as merit goods. Since the days of Olmsted, public lands in the United States have been driven by an ideal of democratic access. As the research presented here shows, fees clearly challenge the continuance of that democratic notion. This study, along with several previous works, show that fees do in fact cause people to use public lands less often, and that they are regressive. The effect of fees on park visitation is exemplified by one survey respondent who stated: “I can remember when we were dirt poor and all we could afford to do was go to parks. So I wish that parks didn’t charge fees.” It is a new reality that, in Whatcom County at the least, some people, likely lower-income people, will not go to public lands as often because of access fees. This reality runs counter to the history of most public lands in the United States and shows that the democratic nature of these special places has been compromised.
VI. LITERATURE CITED
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Freiderich, S. (2005). Legislators target state park fees. The Daily World. Grays Harbor, WA. 10/28/05. GAO (1998). Recreation fees: Demonstration fee program successful but could be improved (GAO / RCED-99-7). Washington, D.C., General Accounting Office. GAO (2003). Recreation fees: Information on Forest Service management of fees from the Fee Demonstration Program (GAO-03-470). Washington, D.C., General Accounting Office. Grewell, J. B. (2004). Recreation fees - Four philosophical questions. Bozeman, MT, The Property and Environment Research Center: June 2004. Hanson, J. (2005). Securing the future of Washington's State Parks: Market-based user fees and privitization can solve budget surplus. Seattle, WA http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/ConOutPrivatization/PNParksMarketBasedFees 01-2.html, Washington Policy Center. Hardy, M. (1993). Regression with dummy variables. Newbury Park, CA, Sage Publications, Inc. Harmon, D. and A. Putney (2003). The full value of parks: From economics to the intangible, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Hendee, J., G. Stankey, et al. (1990). Wilderness Management. Golden, CO, Fulcrum Publishing, North American Press. Herrington, G. (2000). Would privatization help Washington's state parks? The Columbian. Vancouver, WA: B2. Johnson, R. (1991). Pay to play: A rationale for user fees. American Forests. Kenworthy, T. (2005). Budgets chop away at park funds. USA Today. 2/2/2005. Lee, J., D. Scott, et al. (2001). "Structural inequalities in outdoor recreation participation: A multiple hierarchy perspective." Journal of Leisure Research 33(4): 427-449. Lieber, S., D. Fesenmaier, et al. (1989). "Recreation expenditures and opportunity theory: The case of Illinois." Journal of Leisure Research 21(2): 106-123. Lindsay, J. and R. Ogle (1972). "Socioeconomic patterns of outdoor recreation use near urban areas." Journal of Leisure Research 4(1): 19-24. McClure, R. (2005). Bill would open public land: Thousands of acres could be privatized. Seattle Post Intelligencer. Michlen, J. (2001). Is this land our land? Washington Post. 6/24/2001. Milstein, M. (2005). Mount St. Helens open to bids. The Oregonian. 10/18/2005. Portland. More, T. (1999). "A functionalist approach to user fees." Journal of Leisure Research 31(3): 227-244. More, T. (2002). "'The parks are being loved to death' and other frauds and deceits in recreation management." Journal of Leisure Research 34(1): 52-78.
More, T. and T. Stevens (2000). "Do user fees exclude low-income people from resourcebased recreation?" Journal of Leisure Research 32(3): 341-357. Mottram, B. (2004). Forest Fiasco? Tacoma News Tribune. 4/29/2004. Musgrave, R. A. (1959). The theory of public finance: A study in public economy. New York, McGraw-Hill. Nardi, P. (2003). Doing survey research: A guide to quantitative methods. Boston, Allyn & Bacon. Nash, R. F. (2001). Wilderness and the American Mind. New Haven, CT, Nota Bene. Nokkentved, N. (2002). Effects of park fees examined. The Olympian. Olympia, WA. 3/4/02. NPCA (2004). Final spending bill shortchanges parks. National Parks. 78: 15. NTIA (1999). Falling through the net: Defining the digital divide. Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Commerce. National Telecommunication and Information Administration. http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/fttn99/contents.html. NWI (1995). State by state government land ownership. Washington, D.C., National Wilderness Institute. P.L.-104-134 (1996). "U.S. Congress: Omnibus Consolidated Rescissions and Appropriation Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-134)." P.L.-108-447 (2005). "U.S. Congress: Title VII - Consolidated Appropriations Act (Public Law 108-447)." Pampel, F. (2000). Logistic regression: a primer. Iowa City, Sage University Papers. Putkammer, A. (2001). Linking wilderness research and management -- volume 3. Recreation fees in wilderness and other public lands: An annotated reading list. Fort Collins, CO, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-79-Vol 3: 29p. Reiling, S. and R. McCarville (1994). Demand and marketing study at Army Corps of Engineers day-use areas (Miscellanous Paper R-94-1). Waterways Experiment Station, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Salant, P. and D. Dillman (1994). How to conduct your own survey. New York, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Schneider, I. and M. Budruk (1999). "Displacement as a response to the federal recreation fee program." Journal of Park and Recreation Administration 17(3): 7684. Schroeder, H. and J. Louviere (1999). "Stated choice models for predicting the impact of user fees at public recreation sites." Journal of Leisure Research 31(3): 300-324. Schultz, J., L. McAvoy, et al. (1988). "What are we in business for?" Parks and Recreation 23(1): 52-54. Shute, N. (1995). This budget cut is destructive. High Country News. 10/29/95.
Sigman, B. (2005). Kansas parks at 100. Johnson County (Kansas) Sun. Stang, S. (2005). Michigan state parks need a rise in campers. WNDU-TV. South Bend, IN 5/31/2005. Tocqueville, A. d. (2004). Democracy in America. New York, Library of America. TPL (1998). Conservation Finance. San Francisco, Trust for Public Land. Trainor, S. and R. Norgaard (1999). "Recreation fees in the context of wilderness use." Journal of Park and Recreation Administration 17(3): 100-115. Turner, J. (2002). Commission approves parking fees at state parks. Tacoma News Tribune. 9/13/02: A1. Turner, J. (2003). Fewer folks visit state parks: Fees shoo away day patrons. Tacoma News Tribune. 12/9/03. U.S.-Census-Bureau (2000). Census 2000. Washington, D.C., United States Census Bureau. U.S.Congress (1978). "United States Congress. 92 Stat. 163: An act to establish a Redwood National Park in the state of California and for other purposes." USDA (2000). National survey on recreation and the environment. Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/trends/Nsre/nsre2.html. Wellman, J. and D. Probst (2004). Wildland recreation policy. Malabar, FL, Krieger Publishing Co. White, C. (1992). "Legislative history of outdoor recreation fees." Recnotes R92(3): 1-5. Williams, D. R., C. A. Vogt, et al. (1999). "Structural equation modeling of users' response to wilderness recreation fees." Journal of Leisure Research 31(3): 245268. Williams, P. and J. Black (2002). Issues and concerns related to the USDA's Recreation Fee Demonstration program. Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Agriculture; U.S. Forest Service. WSP (2005). Washington State Parks History; http://www.parks.wa.gov/history.asp. Olympia, WA. WSP (2005). Washington State Parks press release: Commission extends discounted parking fee in state parks. 8/12/2005. Olympia, WA. Wureful, B. (2003). Camping fees expected to increase. Michigan Department of Natural Resources press release. 3/7/2003. Lansing, MI.
VII. APPENDIX A
Complete survey with responses to each question
Introduction Hi, my name is (first and last name.) I’m calling from Western Washington University. We’re doing a survey about the opinion of Whatcom County residents towards parks and other outdoor areas in the county. The survey would only take about five to seven minutes and is completely confidential. Will you participate in this survey and help us learn about how people use parks in Whatcom County? Intro2 Great. Are you at least 18 years old and live at this residence? If YES then continue with survey, if NO the call back time was arranged to speak with an adult. Okay, then we’ll get started. You can refuse to answer any question or end the survey at any time. Q1. I am going to ask you a series of questions about parks and other outdoor areas in Whatcom County. Please tell me for each one whether you have visited this type of area since May of last year:
Yes State parks, like Larrabee State Park or Birch Bay State Park National parks, like North Cascades National Park National Forests, like Mt. BakerSnoqualmie National Forest (not including the ski area) County Parks, like Silver Lake Park or Chuckanut Mountain Park City parks, like Lake Padden Park or your local neighborhood park Other Parks 65.4% 41.9% 69.0% 67.7% 72.7% 50.0% No 34.6% 56.1% 31.0% 31.7% 27.3% 45.5% 4.5% 0.7% 2.0% Don’t Know
Q2. How many times since last May have you visited parks like all of those I just asked you about?
CALCULATE # OF TIMES Q3. I’m going to read you a list of activities that some people like to do at parks and other outdoor areas. Please tell me which of these you like to do
Yes Hiking Bicycling Hunting Overnight backpacking Fishing Boating Running Picnicking RV Camping Tent Camping 74.8% 41.9% 15.3% 34.6% 53.5% 60.5% 28.2% 86.7% 23.3% 59.1% No 24.9% 58.1% 84.7% 65.1% 46.5% 39.5% 71.4% 13.3% 76.7% 40.9% Don’t Know 0.3%
Q4. Are there other activities you like to do at parks and other outdoor areas? Qualitative responses captured but not listed here.
Q5. Do you go to parks and other outdoor areas as often as you would like?
Yes 38.7% No 61.3%
Do you go to parks and other outdoor areas as often as you would like?
Q6. I’m going to read a list of reasons why you may not go to parks and other outdoor areas as often as you’d like. For each one, please tell me if it is a major reason, minor reason, or not a reason at all for why you don’t go to parks and outdoor areas as much as you’d like.
(Question order rotated) You don't have enough time? You're in poor health? You have no way to get there? You can't afford to go? You are too busy with other activities? The park facilities are not in good shape? The parks are too crowded? Major reason 66.5% 15.8% 4.9% 7.2% 62.6% 1.6% 5.5% Minor reason 19.2% 7.1% 14.3% 19.3% 21.4% 18.1% 31.3% Not a reason 13.2% 76.5% 80.8% 72.9% 15.4% 78.6% 62.1% .6% .5% 1.6% 1.1% Don’t Know 1.1% .5%
Q7. Are there any other reasons you don't go to parks as often as you like? Qualitative responses captured but not listed here. Q8. Now I am going to ask you a few questions about fees charged at parks and other public outdoor areas. Some of these places, like Larrabee State Park and Mt. Baker National Forest, charge parking fees, usually around $5 a day or $50 for an annual pass. Have you ever paid a parking fee, or bought a pass, for a park or other outdoor area in Whatcom County? (Not including the ski area)
Yes Have you ever paid a parking fee, or bought a pass, for a park or other outdoor area in Whatcom County? 60.4% No 39.3% Can't Remember 0.3%
Q9. How does the requirement at some parks to pay a parking or entry fee affect how often you go to those places? Do you . . .
Go more often How does the requirement at some parks to pay a parking or entry fee affect how often you go to those places? 1.7% Go the same 56.2% Go less often 37.8% Doesn’t affect you because you don’t go to parks 2.3% Don’t Know
Q10. I am going to read a few statements about fees and parks. For each one, please tell me whether you strongly agree, somewhat agree, neither agree nor disagree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with the statement:
Strongly agree Paying a fee is economically hard for me to do I am opposed to paying fees at parks so I don't like to go to those parks that charge fees I don't mind paying a fee Fees don't affect how often I go to parks 12.5% 19.3% Somewhat agree 17.2% 14.5% Neither agree nor disagree 8.8% 8.8% Somewhat disagree 18.5% 20.9% Strongly disagree 42.1% 34.1% Don’t Know 1.0% 2.4%
Q11. Have you ever avoided paying fees by going to another park that doesn’t charge fees?
Yes Have you ever avoided paying fees by going to another park that doesn't charge fees? 36.2% No 63.4% Not Sure 0.3%
Q12. Do you ever avoid paying fees by parking outside of the official parking lots and walking in?
Yes 36.9% No 63.1%
Do you ever avoid paying fees by parking outside of the official parking lots and walking in?
Q13. Do you think that going to parks and other public lands should be totally free, like going to a public library, or that it's okay to charge entry fees, like going to a movie theater?
Should be totally free (like libraries) 43.1% Okay to charge entry fees (like movies) 48.8% Don’t Know 8.1%
Q14. Parks and other outdoor areas need money to operate and stay open to the public. Do you think that...
Operating funds should come primarily through entry and parking fees 7.0% Operating funds should come primarily through general taxes 32.9% Operating funds should come from a mix of the two 57.0% Don’t Know
Q15. Okay, one last question about parks and fees. Since last May have you avoided going to any parks or public lands because there was a parking fee?
Yes No Not Sure 23.5% 75.8% 0.7%
Okay, we’re almost done. I just have a few questions about your background so that we can compare your answers to those of other people. All of your questions will be kept strictly confidential and used only for the purposes of this survey. Q16. Do you live in or RIGHT NEXT TO Bellingham?
Yes No Don’t Know / Refused 48.8% 50.9% 0.3%
Q17. Please tell me what the yearly income is for your household. Is it . . .
Count Less than $10,000 $10,000 to under $15,000 $15,000 to under $25,000 $25,000 to under $35,000 $35,000 to under $50,000 $50,000 to under $75,000 $75,000 to under $100,000 $100,000 to under $150,000 $150,000 to under $200,000, or $200,000 or more DON'T KNOW/ REFUSED 13 10 37 60 66 48 23 12 4 2 23 Percent 4.4% 3.4% 12.4% 20.1% 22.1% 16.1% 7.7% 4.0% 1.3% 0.7% 7.7%
Q18. How many people in your household are supported by that income? CALCULATE Q19. Is your age . . .
Count 10 15 61 59 60 34 20 20 14 2 3 Percent 3.4% 5.0% 20.5% 19.8% 20.1% 11.4% 6.7% 6.7% 4.7% 0.7% 1.0%
18 - 19 years 20 to 24 25 to 34 35 to 44 45 to 54 55 to 59 60 to 64 65 to 74 75 to 84 85 or older REFUSED
Q20. What is your race? Only categories for which there was a response are shown.
Count 263 6 8 15 5 Percent 88.6% 2.0% 2.7% 5.1% 1.7%
White / Caucasian Hispanic or Latino American Indian and Alaska Native OTHER REFUSED
Q21. What level of school have you completed?
Count Elementary (1-6 years) Junior High or some high school (7-<12 years) High School Graduate Some college (13-16 years) College Graduate Advanced degree (>16 years) REFUSED 1 11 59 105 80 40 1 Percent 0.3% 3.7% 19.9% 35.4% 26.9% 13.5% 0.3%
Q22. I know this question may sound silly, but I have to ask it: are you male or female?
Count 115 182 1 Percent 38.6% 61.1% 0.3%
Male Female Refused
Okay, we're all done. Thank you very much for your participation in this project. Have a good night (day). TERMINATE.
VIII. APPENDIX B
Regression tables utilizing expanded demographic model for select questions
1. Paying a fee is economically hard for me to do. Linear regression (1= strongly agree . . . 5 = strongly disagree)
Coefficients a Mode l 1 Unstandardized Coefficients B Std. Error 4.674 .480 -1.672 .258 -.785 .254 -.876 .383 .276 .255 -.012 .210 -1.203 .879 -.039 .266 .348 -.190 -.113 -.100 -.101 -.139 -.229 -.490 .213 .189 .011 .207 .179 .197 .183 .168 .260 .209 .182 .204 .187 .185 .201 .252 .200 .212 Standardized Coefficients Beta -.554 -.258 -.159 .084 -.004 -.082 -.008 .101 -.062 -.038 -.024 -.029 -.046 -.074 -.165 .070 .057 .002 .060 .059
(Constant) Income - Low Dummy Income - Middle Dummy Income - Missing Dummy Age - Young Dummy Age - Middle Dummy Age - Missing Dummy Race - White Dummy Education - College Dummy Gender - Female Dummy Location - Bellingham (urban) dummy Hunting Dummy Hiking Dummy Bike Dummy Backpacking Dummy Fishing Dummy Boating Dummy RunningDummy Picnkicking Dummy RV Camping Dummy Tent Camping Dummy
t 9.731 -6.470 -3.095 -2.289 1.082 -.056 -1.368 -.147 1.764 -1.036 -.672 -.383 -.480 -.765 -1.123 -2.627 1.151 .940 .042 1.038 .843
Sig. .000 .000 .002 .023 .280 .956 .172 .883 .079 .301 .502 .702 .631 .445 .262 .009 .251 .348 .967 .300 .400
a. Dependent Variable: Paying a fee is economically hard for me to do
2. I am opposed to paying fees at parks so I don’t like to go to parks that don’t charge fees. Linear regression (1= strongly agree . . . 5 = strongly disagree) .
Coefficients a Mode l 1 Unstandardized Coefficients B Std. Error 3.306 .520 -.799 .280 -.459 .273 -.777 .412 .625 .279 .325 .228 -.557 .948 .397 .290 .781 -.098 -.160 -.807 -.217 -.073 -.186 -.298 .038 -.017 -.078 .489 -.032 .214 .198 .182 .279 .227 .199 .223 .203 .201 .220 .271 .217 .231 Standardized Coefficients Beta -.251 -.144 -.135 .182 .103 -.036 .081 .216 -.031 -.052 -.187 -.061 -.023 -.057 -.096 .012 -.005 -.017 .134 -.010
(Constant) Income - Low Dummy Income - Middle Dummy Income - Missing Dummy Age - Young Dummy Age - Middle Dummy Age - Missing Dummy Race - White Dummy Education - College Dummy Gender - Female Dummy Location - Bellingham (urban) dummy Hunting Dummy Hiking Dummy Bike Dummy Backpacking Dummy Fishing Dummy Boating Dummy RunningDummy Picnkicking Dummy RV Camping Dummy Tent Camping Dummy
t 6.353 -2.856 -1.681 -1.884 2.242 1.425 -.588 1.371 3.644 -.492 -.881 -2.894 -.958 -.370 -.832 -1.472 .188 -.076 -.289 2.250 -.139
Sig. .000 .005 .094 .061 .026 .155 .557 .172 .000 .623 .379 .004 .339 .712 .406 .142 .851 .940 .772 .025 .890
a. Dependent Variable: I am opposed to paying fees at parks so I don't like to go to those parks that charge fees
3. How does the requirement at some parks to pay a parking or entry fee affect how often you go to those places? Logistic regression (0 = go the same / more often; 1 = go less often)
Variables in the Equation Step a 1 IncLowDummy IncMidDummy IncMissDummy AgeYoungDummy AgeMiddleDummy AgeMissingDummy RaceWhiteDummy EducCollegeDummy GendFemaleDummy LocBhamDummy HuntingDummy HikingDummy BicyclingDummy BPDummy FisjhDummy BoatDummy RunDummy PicnickDummy RVDummy TentDummy Constant B 1.297 .785 1.310 -.160 -.120 -.512 -.514 -.364 .489 .130 .404 .467 .291 -.385 .407 -.488 .038 .271 -.360 .387 -1.737 S.E. .465 .464 .601 .401 .338 1.056 .407 .306 .297 .266 .402 .339 .293 .324 .299 .291 .318 .407 .323 .341 .772 Wald 7.764 2.856 4.760 .158 .127 .235 1.600 1.417 2.706 .238 1.011 1.898 .987 1.417 1.848 2.821 .015 .441 1.237 1.292 5.056 df 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Sig. .005 .091 .029 .691 .721 .628 .206 .234 .100 .626 .315 .168 .320 .234 .174 .093 .904 .507 .266 .256 .025 Exp(B) 3.658 2.192 3.708 .852 .887 .599 .598 .695 1.631 1.138 1.498 1.595 1.338 .680 1.502 .614 1.039 1.311 .698 1.473 .176
a. Variable(s) entered on step 1: IncLowDummy, IncMidDummy, IncMissDummy, AgeYoungDummy, AgeMiddleDummy, AgeMissingDummy, RaceWhiteDummy, EducCollegeDummy, GendFemaleDummy, LocBhamDummy, HuntingDummy, HikingDummy, BicyclingDummy, BPDummy, FisjhDummy, BoatDummy, RunDummy, PicnickDummy, RVDummy, TentDummy.
4. Have you ever avoided fees by going to another park that doesn’t charge fees? Logistic regression (0 = no; 1=yes).
Variables in the Equation Step a 1 IncLowDummy IncMidDummy IncMissDummy AgeYoungDummy AgeMiddleDummy AgeMissingDummy RaceWhiteDummy EducCollegeDummy GendFemaleDummy LocBhamDummy HuntingDummy HikingDummy BicyclingDummy BPDummy FisjhDummy BoatDummy RunDummy PicnickDummy RVDummy TentDummy Constant B 1.731 1.013 1.644 -.022 .083 .466 .167 .030 -.318 .685 .052 .355 .438 .222 .933 -.144 .133 .132 -.607 -.120 -3.117 S.E. .495 .488 .637 .409 .351 1.074 .429 .314 .300 .278 .413 .356 .296 .329 .316 .299 .323 .407 .343 .354 .826 Wald 12.237 4.308 6.665 .003 .055 .189 .152 .009 1.126 6.085 .016 .994 2.179 .455 8.725 .231 .170 .104 3.138 .115 14.247 df 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Sig. .000 .038 .010 .958 .814 .664 .697 .923 .289 .014 .899 .319 .140 .500 .003 .631 .680 .747 .077 .734 .000 Exp(B) 5.648 2.754 5.177 .978 1.086 1.594 1.182 1.031 .727 1.984 1.054 1.426 1.549 1.248 2.542 .866 1.142 1.141 .545 .887 .044
a. Variable(s) entered on step 1: IncLowDummy, IncMidDummy, IncMissDummy, AgeYoungDummy, AgeMiddleDummy, AgeMissingDummy, RaceWhiteDummy, EducCollegeDummy, GendFemaleDummy, LocBhamDummy, HuntingDummy, HikingDummy, BicyclingDummy, BPDummy, FisjhDummy, BoatDummy, RunDummy, PicnickDummy, RVDummy, TentDummy.
5. Do you ever avoid paying fees by parking outside of the official parking lots and walking in? Logistic regression (0=no; 1=yes).
Variables in the Equation Step a 1 IncLowDummy IncMidDummy IncMissDummy AgeYoungDummy AgeMiddleDummy AgeMissingDummy RaceWhiteDummy EducCollegeDummy GendFemaleDummy LocBhamDummy HuntingDummy HikingDummy BicyclingDummy BPDummy FisjhDummy BoatDummy RunDummy PicnickDummy RVDummy TentDummy Constant B .344 .707 -.544 .468 -.029 -20.682 -.356 -.506 .003 -.129 -.512 .986 .487 .389 -.399 .122 .623 -.067 -.324 .634 -1.678 S.E. .443 .438 .718 .424 .370 15054.24 .430 .335 .312 .288 .446 .404 .300 .327 .312 .313 .319 .435 .347 .360 .827 Wald .602 2.610 .575 1.218 .006 .000 .687 2.282 .000 .201 1.318 5.951 2.641 1.417 1.631 .152 3.808 .024 .874 3.097 4.119 df 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Sig. .438 .106 .448 .270 .937 .999 .407 .131 .991 .654 .251 .015 .104 .234 .202 .697 .051 .877 .350 .078 .042 Exp(B) 1.411 2.028 .580 1.596 .971 .000 .700 .603 1.003 .879 .599 2.682 1.627 1.476 .671 1.129 1.865 .935 .723 1.885 .187
a. Variable(s) entered on step 1: IncLowDummy, IncMidDummy, IncMissDummy, AgeYoungDummy, AgeMiddleDummy, AgeMissingDummy, RaceWhiteDummy, EducCollegeDummy, GendFemaleDummy, LocBhamDummy, HuntingDummy, HikingDummy, BicyclingDummy, BPDummy, FisjhDummy, BoatDummy, RunDummy, PicnickDummy, RVDummy, TentDummy.