Nathan I enjoyed that addendum Jim wrote also and I sent him an email this morning asking if it was fine alright tp post it here. He agreed so here it is:
Say NO to Backcountry Fees in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
As should have been obvious in my monthly newsletter offerings, I had a wonderful boyhood. Much of it was spent fishing and camping in the bosom of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, happy, carefree, and untroubled by much government intrusion of any kind. I purchased my annual fishing license, obtained permits when I ventured into the backcountry for overnight stays, occasionally showed the contents of my creel to a Park ranger, and enjoyed a blissful adolescence.
Much the same situation has prevailed in all the intervening years, although I have watched, with increasing vexation and alarm, as a series of bureaucrats wearing the title of Park Superintendent, along with all too many misguided minions, seemed ****-bent on doing wrong for the Park I cherish and where my father, in his own boyhood (and before the establishment of the Park), spent what were arguably the happiest and most memorable of all the 101 years of his life.
These intrusions have taken a variety of forms and seem increasingly onerous. In that regard I guess you could say that they are a microcosm of the way government in today’s world seems to act on all fronts. It wants to be in our lives, direct our every action, and dig into our vanishing financial resources at every turn. All of this has led me, in company with three other folks who are equally passionate about the Smokies, to formulate a petition protesting a plan which would see anyone who ventured into the backcountry of the Smokies to stay overnight burdened with onerous fees. These would come in two forms—a required payment to register for camping and a night-by-night charge to sleep out in the open beneath the starry skies of the Great Smokies.
- Never mind that there has never been a charge in the 76 years of the Park’s existence.
- Never mind that shortly after the Park was established a promise was made that there would never be access fees for use of the Park.
- Never mind that the Park’s own statistics show backcountry camping is in decline and has been so since the mid-1990s.
- Never mind that this comes at a time of straitened economic circumstances for many.
- Never mind that we are at a point in our nation’s history when we need more youngsters and young people being encouraged to take to the woods, as opposed to facing financial and logistical barriers to do so.
- Never mind that the Park has long been guilty of salutary neglect of the backcountry.
- Never mind that those who regularly use the backcountry are some of the finest stewards of the Smokies.
- Never mind that millions of dollars (your taxpayer dollars) in “stimulus” funds went to the Park as part of the Obama administration’s TARP program.
Heedless of all these things, Park officials are plowing ahead to institute fees for a Park specifically established for the “enjoyment of the people” and in a place where thousands gave up their homes to make it a reality.
I have never previously, in my 69 years, been part of presenting a petition, but I’m so passionate about this that I am doing so. I hope you will go to the petition, no matter where you live, and add your voice to those in protest. You may have never been to the Smokies, but that’s really beside the point. If you feel, as I do, that the onerous hand of the government is laying hold of us at every turn, I urge you to read this petition and its points of justification, and then sign it. Seldom have I felt more strongly about an issue, and enough opposing voices may just give Dale Ditmanson, the superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, pause to ponder the wrong he is doing.