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Recreational user fees revisited

Despite numerous studies conducted over the years by a variety of entities, there is little current data available on the number of visitors to the Adirondack Park, their preferences for activities or estimates of their expenditures.

Due to the fact that there are no gates, toll booths or similar entrances into the Adirondack Park, regional tourism officials can only offer estimates on the total number of visitors to the Adirondack region.

The most recent figures provided by the Adirondack Tourism Council estimates that 7 to 9 million tourists stay an average of 2 to 2.5 days each year.

However, a federal study reported that 10 million visitors spent about two days (16 to 22.5 million visitor nights) in the Park.

Overwhelmingly, the majority of visitors report the primary purpose of their visit was "nature based."

This should come as no surprise, as nearly half of the park's 6.5 million acres are open to public use and the majority of these lands require no fee.

Public access to state lands is free.

Given that 90 percent of all Americans claim to have participated in at least one outdoor recreational activity over the last 12 months, the potential economic impact of a fee-based program for recreational access is considerable.

Although fewer than 130,000 residents live in the Park year-round, the region hosts an estimated 70,000 seasonal residents and is within a day's drive for over 90 million people.

Is it time for a "pay to play" recreation fee? Could such a program offer a regional economic stimulus and enhance the recreational experience? Would the region's environmental community embrace the idea or go to battle?

Pay to play

The Adirondack Park, considered one of the world's greatest experiments in environmental protection, has been recognized as a shining example of a "park with people" that coexist seamlessly with nature.

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