Is it fair to charge paddlers a fee for the use of a public river? Would it be any different than collecting money from hikers utilizing trails in the Forest Preserve or from paddlers utilizing local streams and ponds?
The very notion goes against principles of our national culture. It violates our inherent right of a sense of adventure, the freedom to roam at will and the ingrained, pioneer spirit that seems to dwell in the very core of most outdoor travelers.
Such is the conundrum currently facing many state and national agencies charged with the responsibility of managing our nation's wild lands.
In future years, the value of our wild lands will surely increase due to both the financial and climate changes that lie ahead.
While officials interested in implementing user fees on public park lands may be questioned about the fairness of charging fees for taxpayer-supported operations, collecting a fee for the cost of a so-called "free" service has its advantages.
"The issue of the fairness of user fees was answered in the parks and recreation industry 15 years ago," explained Ken Conway, a Park Director in Cameron County, Texas. "Users of parks are willing to pay a reasonable fee for a quality service. The whole recreation industry nationwide has really embraced user fees as a way to make sure there's support in the budget from year to year."
Camping and RV sites on South Padre Island generated over $1.6 million in revenue for Cameron County, Texas last year.
It has been estimated that one out of every five US travelers will choose an outdoor vacation this year. But, it is a fact that over 100 million people live within a day's drive of the Adirondack Park. Do the math!
If just a $10 fee was collected from only the estimated 200,000 visitors that visit the Eastern High Peaks annually, the state could collect an easy $2 million.