ARC Recommends Changes to National Fee Program

Christine Jourdain, Executive Director of the American Council of Snowmobile Associations and a member of the American Recreation Coalition’s (ARC) Board of Directors, recently testified before the U.S. Congress on the recreation fee legislation currently under consideration by the House of Representatives to replace the national recreation fee demonstration program. Ms. Jourdain testified on May 6, 2004 before the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands at a hearing on H.R. 3283, the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act. During her testimony, she emphasized that ARC does not consider recreation fees as an end in themselves, but rather as a means to be used – in conjunction with other tools, including appropriated funds, volunteerism and partnerships – to help reach the goal of "great experiences in the great outdoors."

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are contemplating legislation that would provide a successor to the demonstration program but that would also continue many of its key principles, including local retention of collected fees.

Ms. Jourdain offered a series of specific recommendations for improving H.R. 3283 and the nation’s recreation fee program. Among those recommendations were the following:

  • A six-year fee demonstration/experimentation program should replace the current short-term recreation fee demonstration program; fee authority should not be made permanent.
  • The fee structure should be simplified and all federal recreation-management agencies should be included.
  • The fee-related concerns of special recreation permit holders should be addressed.
  • A National Recreation Fees Advisory Board should be established to review fee-related complaints and appeals.
  • An investment account should be set up allowing recreation sites to be improved before fees are imposed or increased.
  • An effective, uniform method of waiving fees for volunteers should be identified and implemented.