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Thread: Proposed fees for the Park

  1. #21
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Hillbilly Hollow, NC


    My fear is that we pay more in fees, and all we get in return is increased hassle with obtaining the permits and regulations. I can see expanding the sites that require reservations, but I fail to see the need for every site to require one. I've never had any problem obtaining a permit, especially since they went to the self reservation type system. Years ago you had to go to one of entrance stations, or a ranger station to obtain the permit. I think increasing the sites that require a reservation would take care of most of the problem. It would be nice if they left a few for people making last minute trips, or into areas that seldom get used.
    "Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it."
    Salvador Dali

  2. #22
    Join Date
    Jan 2007


    I would be okay with it if I knew that the money was going to go to BC sites. Even if it was just to site maintenance and not necessarily enforcement. Unfortunately it probably won't. Even if it did, the mgmt would likely look at it like, well now they have a special fund for BC sites, therefore no need to fund them out of the park's general budget, and now that money budgeted goes someplace else. And that does happen. Also, $4 more for camping each night, .50 cents more a gallon gas to get there, 5% more for tippets to cover increased production cost, cost of boots and clothing increasing 10%, and on and on, it is getting so it is a slow death by a thousand cuts. Just getting harder to make ends meet when everyone is dipping into our wallets for just $4 more. But like mentioned in an earlier post, probably already a done deal, and all it is doing is hitting those who are honestly playing by the rules.

  3. #23
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Gulf Shores, Alabama


    To me its not the 4$ or 10$ but in how the money will be used. Yes sites do need to be maintained but the real problem is enforcement of existing regulations. Many times have I seen people using the sites without permits. If I thought the generated funds would be used for enforcement then I might be more in favor. Our powers that be though have a way of diverting and watering down funds like these to the point that I wander if they would have any impact. Maybe everyone who enters the backcountry should be charged, not just those who sleep on the ground. Of course this is a rediculous idea but it does indicate (in my opinion) that a much more involved study should be undertaken. No one wants to see a toll gate at every trailhead!


  4. #24
    Join Date
    May 2010


    I use the BC campsites a few times/year, and the problems I encounter are the following:
    • Can't reach the BC reservations desk because the line is busy
    • No available spaces in the preferred campsite
    • Crowded BC campsites b/c folks camp at sites without registering
    • Broken bear cables
    Personally, my experience is that many folks don't appreciate that which comes at no cost. So, I wouldn't mind paying a few dollars/night in order to provide better enforcement of the BC rules and regulations, to provide an online reservation system for the BC sites, and to help maintain and repair the sites.

    Face it folks, we risk killing the goose that is laying the golden eggs for us if we don't put our money where our mouth is for the GSMNP BC. It is only fair for those who use the BC help pay to maintain it.

  5. #25
    Join Date
    Apr 2009


    If they were to charge a fee the should have a reservation system for the sites. That way the BC folks could reserve a site and pay their money. If we can do it with hotels/cabins and guides and airlines then it should not take too much to set the system up for the park

  6. #26
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Knoxville, Tn


    Jum Casada wrote an excellent piece about this issue in his addendum newsletter. If you don't already subscribe, I recommend it. I would repost it here, but feel akward doing so without his consent, since he sometimes frequents the forum, so maybe he will do so himself.

  7. #27
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Maryville, TN


    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.

  8. #28
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Loudon, TN


    Quote Originally Posted by Crockett View Post

    From Jim's article...
    • 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...
    If this goes into effect, I'm considering (just considering) offering a $4 rebate on a map purchase to anyone who produces an initialed fee receipt showing they and their younster(s) spent a Saturday night at a Smokies backcountry campsite. Such seems to work pretty well for church bulletins at the local Zaxby's. Ideally worship would be involved, but clearly that would not be a requirement of mine.
    “Joe” Fred Turner
    Formerly SmokyStreams

  9. #29
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Knoxville, TN

    Default This came down from the park today

    Smokies Backcountry Camping Fee Approved

    GATLINBURG -Great Smoky Mountains Superintendent Dale A. Ditmanson

    has announced that the Park’s proposal to begin collecting for the use of

    the Park’s backcountry campsites and shelters has been approved by the

    National Park Service. This approval clears the way for the Park to move

    forward with developing an on line system to collect fees beginning in 2013

    for reserving and use of the Park’s backcountry by overnight hikers and


    The Park developed the plan in order to improve its trip-planning and

    reservation services to users and to expand its backcountry Ranger presence

    to better protect park resources through enforcement of food-storage and

    other regulations and improved visitor education regarding Leave-No-Trace


    The proposal was open for public comment last summer and some 230

    written comments and two petitions were received during the comment period.

    According to Ditmanson, the public comments provided a great deal of

    constructive input on the concerns Park backcountry users had about the fee

    plan. “Many commenters were under the misconception that the Smokies is

    legally prohibited from charging user fees. The Park is prohibited from

    charging a toll or license fee from motorists crossing Park roads, by

    language in a 1951 deed under which the ownership of some park roads was

    transferred from the State of Tennessee to the National Park Service. But,

    we have long been authorized to collect user fees for specific activities

    such as front country camping, weddings, and commercial filming.”


    Smokies Backcountry Fee Proposal – page 2

    “There was also a significant amount of concern about our initial

    plan to utilize the same computerized federal reservation system, that virtually all national parks use to reserve

    drive-in sites in front country campgrounds. We acknowledge that some of

    the policies, such as the lead time for making reservations and

    cancellations, are not a good fit for more spontaneous backcountry users.

    We will not use that system unless we are convinced that it can provide the

    level of service we want to offer, and are exploring the alternative of

    developing a stand-alone software program tailored specifically to the

    Smokies. The system developed will also need to be practicable for

    Appalachian Trail thru hikers whose itineraries evolve from day-to-day.”

    “Concern was also raised about the range of fee amounts that were

    under consideration and that the resulting revenues may be diverted to

    other programs. We have decided to focus our plans around the lowest and

    simplest of the fees under study: $4 per night per person. Most

    importantly, 100% of the revenue from this program will be invested in

    improving back-country services through extended hours of the back-country

    office, trip-planning assistance, on-line reservations, and protection of

    park resources through increased ranger staff. ”

    Now that the proposal has been approved, Park managers plan to

    provide periodic updates as plans for the reservation system evolve.

    About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service

    employees care for America’s 395 national parks and work with communities

    across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home

    recreational opportunities. Learn more at

    Bob Miller
    Management Assistant
    Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    (865) 436-1207
    FAX 436-1204
    I think they are considering this the official press release.

  10. #30
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Maryville, TN


    Thanks Grannyknot

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