A comparison of the travel cost and contingent valuation methods of recreation valuation at Cullaby Lake County Park Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/cv43p079j

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  • While there are many people who feel it is impossible to place a monetary value on a recreation resource, economists argue that not only is it possible to do so but also necessary because so many recreation sites are publicly provided. There have been various methods used to value non-market goods such as a recreation resource, but the methods being used today are still in a changing process. The objective of this thesis is to use and compare two of the most popular means of valuing a recreation site. The two methods are the contingent valuation method (direct questioning of willingness to pay) and the travel cost method. The site to be valued is Cullaby Lake County Park near Astoria, Oregon. Contingent valuation attempts to discover people's willingness to pay for use of the recreation site by "selling" annual passes for use of the site. Through summation of all individual's willingness to pay, a value for the recreation site is calculated. The travel cost method estimates a demand curve by asking users about their travel expenditures and assuming that people would react to an on-site price increase in the same manner as they would to an increase in travel expenditures. The demand curve estimated in this thesis divides users into distance zones and uses zone averages for all the variables. The dependent variable is visits per thousand population for each zone. The independent variables are travel costs (as a price proxy), income, and one-way distance traveled to the site (to represent travel time). The estimate of site value is derived through integration of the consumers' surplus area underneath the demand curve and above the price line. Value estimates derived by the two models show a wide divergence. The travel cost estimate is seven times larger than the contingent valuation estimate. Part of the reason for this discrepancy lies in the fact that the methods were estimating values for two different goods. A benefit estimate of a watershed development project on Cullaby Lake was desired. The contingent valuation method is flexible enough to allow estimation of the benefits attributable to only the improvements made on a natural lake. However, the travel cost model does not have this flexibility and will give a value for the lake as well as for the project improvements. While this thesis does not prove that one method is superior to the other, it may be an important contribution to the literature. Which model (if either) should be chosen to estimate recreation benefits may depend on exactly what it is that one is attempting to value.
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