Shifting National Park Policies and Local People: A Case Study of Acadia National Park
Keywords:Park Policy, Partnerships, Outsourcing Fees, Donations, Local Impacts, Fiscal Policy
AbstractThe decade from 1996 to 2005 saw dramatic policy changes for national parks as the National Park Service (NPS) moved from an agency-centered service delivery model to a more partnership-based model that included growing reliance on public-private partnerships, outsourcing, corporate sponsorship, and user fees. While these changes helped ensure the quality of visitor experiences, they also had consequences for local residents. Local people are impacted by parks, both directly (e.g., personal use) and indirectly (e.g., impact on local economy). As major stakeholders, they may have opinions about management strategies and plans for a park’s future. This study examined the attitudes and visitation behavior of local residents living within 50 miles of Acadia National Park in Maine. Virtually all those responding to a 2006 mail survey had visited Acadia at some time in the past, and half had visited in the preceding year. The doubling of entry fees in 2005 appeared to have had a limited effect on locals; only one-third had reduced their visitation or sought other sites, and nearly half had accessed the park without paying. More than half believed that Acadia should try to attract more visitors, and they approved of magazine advertising and fundraising campaigns like those of the Public Broadcasting Service or National Public Radio, but they opposed direct solicitation. Local residents were not enthusiastic about outsourcing park facilities and services, and they were ambivalent toward further public/private partnerships and future corporate sponsorship, although many commented favorably about current sponsorship programs. However, when these individual factors were combined in a forced-choice conjoint analysis, local residents rejected further developments like these and exhibited strong preferences for the status quo. Finally, despite the fact that Acadia generated an estimated $81 million in value added to the region’s economy, fewer than half the local area residents perceived either positive or negative spillover effects from the park; only traffic was considered to be a significant problem by a majority. Those who did have formed opinions about the park were positive and complimentary.?
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