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Recreation User Fee Income: How Far Does It Go Toward Meeting Costs?

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Three out of every ten publicly owned outdoor recreation areas and facilities in the United States charged user fees in 1959. This was determined from data collected by the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission. The median ratio of fee revenues to operating and maintenance costs for that year is estimated at 36 percent. Only 14 percent of the charge areas collected fees equal to or greater than their total noncapital expenses. Low fee returns are typical at the 4,888 publicly owned outdoor recreation areas inventoried. One-third (34 percent) of the charge areas recovered 1 to 19 cents per dollar of operating costs through fee incomes. An additional 24 percent recovered 20-39 cents. Two varieties of user fees were identified: facility fees and general fees. Facility fees, which are selective fees for separate improvements such as campgrounds or swimming areas, were the most common. User fee income was applied directly toward operations at about one-half of the recreation areas. Most areas depended significantly upon annual appropriations. Recreation user fees show a rising trend across the country. How far user fees can offset operating and total costs will probably vary with the fee collected, public response to fees, recreation alternatives outside charge areas, operating costs, type of use, and the standards of service provided.
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Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Chief, Branch of Forest Production Economics Research, Forest Service, U. S. Dept. Agric., Washington, D. C.

Publication date: 1963-10-01

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  • The Journal of Forestry is the most widely circulated scholarly forestry journal in the world. In print since 1902, the Journal has received several national awards for excellence. The mission of the Journal of Forestry is to advance the profession of forestry by keeping forest management professionals informed about significant developments and ideas in the many facets of forestry: economics, education and communication, entomology and pathology, fire, forest ecology, geospatial technologies, history, international forestry, measurements, policy, recreation, silviculture, social sciences, soils and hydrology, urban and community forestry, utilization and engineering, and wildlife management. The Journal is published bimonthly: January, March, May, July, September, and November.

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