A Policy Implementation Analysis of the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program: Convergence of Public Sentiment, Agency Programs, and Policy Principles?
Keywords:Recreation fees, Fee Demonstration Program, fee principles
AbstractIn this paper I examine the relationships among ( 1) a set of principles to guide the design and implementation of recreation fee programs; (2) agency fee programs, objectives and actions; and ( 3) public sentiment toward recreation fees. The premise of this paper is that agency fee programs would benefit from a convergence of these three factors.A set of guiding principles was adopted from Manning and others (1996). Public sentiment toward recreation fees was obtained from numerous sources, including scholarly and popular publications, newspaper articles, Congressional testimony, visitor survey data, and internal agency fee demonstration site evaluations. Twenty (20) distinct concerns regarding recreation fees were identified. Material on implementation of the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program was collected from each of the four administering agencies and examined to identify agency objectives or actions related to any of the identified public concerns or any of the guiding principles.Of the 20 public concerns identified, at least five are political or philosophical in nature, and three are probably best characterized as research questions. These eight concerns are likely beyond the direct control of agencies to address when designing and implementing fee programs. Of the remaining 12 public concerns, agency fee programs appear to adequately address four. With some exceptions, the agencies have done an adequate job of operationalizing the guiding principles. There are four principles, however, that the agencies do not appear to be operationalizing adequately.The final area of analysis is whether or not the guiding principles articulated by Manning and others (1996) adequately address public concerns about fees. There are five concerns that are not adequately addressed by the principles.The agencies authorized by the fee demonstration legislation have a responsibility to look beyond the general nature of the legislation and undertalce a more rigorous examination of the broader implications of their fee programs. Fee programs, as implemented by the agencies, need to have objectives beyond raising revenue and deciding what to spend it on, because charging and paying fees have implications that go far beyond that.One recommendation would be for agencies to develop specific objectives for their fee programs that clearly reflect broader agency policy and philosophy. In addition, agencies need to more clearly articulate their criteria for determining when (for what) to charge fees.
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