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     Research Note


Visitor Fees in the National Park System:
A Legislative and Administrative History
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As with the author's Assateague park history, a brief note on the research seemed more appropriate to this "model" program/activity history than a traditional bibliography repeating the sources already named in the footnotes.

The intense interest and involvement of Congress in park visitor fees over the years meant that the project would be as much a legislative history as an administrative history. (Congressional involvement extended even to such details as whether fee campgrounds should have showers--matters normally left to program administrators.) This necessitated heavy reliance on those indispensable tools of the Government historian: congressional, hearings, reports, and laws. For the author, these were most conveniently available in the main Interior Library and the Interior Law Library, the latter containing certain compilations of such material facilitating research. Recent draft legislation and related correspondence was found in James M. Lambe's Office of Legislation, where excellent files are maintained by Dorothy J. Whitehead.

The old annual reports of the Director of the National Park Service and the Secretary of the Interior, in the Interior Library, are almost always useful for administrative history. Those from 1914 through the 1930s included pertinent data on visitor fees, again proving their value. Other good library sources were the several studies and reports on the subject done by or under contract to the Government, from the 1962 Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission report to the 1982 report of the General Accounting Office.

The Ranger Activities and Protection Division under Charles A. Veitl is the NPS office now responsible for administering the visitor fee activity. That office's files, made available with the assistance of Richard J. Rambur , the current fee "keyman," contained informative correspondence by and with the field, Washington officials, other agencies, members of Congress, and the public.

A search at the outset for secondary works touching on fee history revealed only one: John Ise's Our National Park Policy; A Critical History (1961). Ise's book, largely devoted to other matters, was nevertheless helpful in dispelling the researcher's initial ignorance of the topic. The 1982 GAO report, not discovered until the end, contains a two-page historical summary leading up to the 1979 fee freeze.

Prepared under a deadline, this history does not purport to be an exhaustive treatment of park visitor fees (although some readers may find it exhausting). Research was limited to sources within the Interior Department, primarily within the Park Service. Congressional members and staff and outside groups with an interest in the topic were not consulted. Such contacts would undoubtedly have been productive. Comments and contributions by informed reviewers discovering significant omissions in the fee saga are welcome.


Last Modified: Tues, Apr 4 2000 07:08:48 am PDT

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