BACKCOUNTRY TAX FEEASCO the unedited and uncensored edition

Our original Backcountry Tax blog on the gosmokies site was moderated by some folks who held an opinion in favor of backcountry fees.  As a result the blog operator, Jigsha Desai made several threats to shut us down but we remained in operation because it was the most popular blog post in the history of that site.  We decided to take our conversation to a place where our message wouldn't be suppressed.  This blog is the result.

Therefore, it is our collective opinion that the Backcountry Fee Proposal put out By Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson and backcountry specialist Melissa Cobern is an egregious reach into the pockets of taxpaying citizens. 

A prominent study proves that access fees restrict use of National Park and forest lands. http://www.westernslopenofee.org/pdfuploads/Fee_Policy_White_Paper.pdf

The primary justification of the backcountry fee proposal made by park administration is campsite overcrowding which was proven false.  Click here for details and statistics to prove this fallacy for exactly what it is.  A federal fee grab.

Park management cozies up to the horse lobby but proposes a tax on  backpackers who are the best citizens of the Great Smoky Mountains.  In fact, Ditmanson recently signed off on a new horse concession smack dab in the middle of Cades Cove.

Recreation.gov is touted as a solution for reservation problems in the backcountry office but this Canadian based company is frought with problems.  72 hour reservations are required for the empty Smokies campsites you will be paying for the privilege of using.  Forget spontaneous weekend outings with the family.  Better pull out the wallet, you are going to pay just to talk to them.

This is not about money for any of us.  We love the Smokies and actually get out there and know the lies being spread by the Sugarlands swashbucklers.  It is a matter of deciding what type of National Park you want.  Should boy scout groups and single mothers and twenty somethings be discouraged from nature because of trumped up justifications for more rangers?  We think not.  Help us stop this double taxation now.  One fee will result in another.  We must make a stand.

(picture courtesy Kittzy Benzar, Western Slope No fee coalition)

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Comment by John Quillen on February 28, 2017 at 4:45pm

I wonder if it includes clear cutting trails into the National Park and skinning bears and rescuing deer from sinkholes.  Is there a greased pig you can chase named Ca$$iu$?

Comment by Dustin M on February 28, 2017 at 4:01pm

Anyone else hear anything about this "Frontier Challenge" in the Smokies?

Comment by Dustin M on February 28, 2017 at 4:00pm

Comment by Jim Casada on February 28, 2017 at 2:44pm

John--I'm going to try again to see if the problems are just sporadic (although I've been unable to post on three separate occasions). Basically all I tried to say in my most recent effort was kudos to you guys in connection with the Morgan County folks. They clearly realize that this is intrusive taxation, all about control, and against the grain of all that is good for local tourism operations and local folks.

Jim Casada

Comment by Dustin M on February 28, 2017 at 2:33pm

Everything is good on my end.

Comment by John Quillen on February 28, 2017 at 2:27pm

Thanks Dustin.  Is anyone here having trouble posting or logging in to gotsmokies?  One of our folks has had some issues and I wanted to see if it was widespread. If so, let me know.

Comment by Dustin M on February 28, 2017 at 10:11am

Excellent work! 

Comment by John Quillen on February 28, 2017 at 9:29am

Last night Erik Gerhardt, Laurel and I appeared before the Morgan County Commission tourism committee.  We were asked to speak more on the Frozen Head backpacker fee.  Mayor Don Edwards accurately described what we are fighting as a "tax", at which point I knew we were with folks who are determined to get things done and totally understand our righteous indignation.

Erik discussed various points such as how the reservation system will benefit out of staters more than locals. One of the lines in the park PR the day after the initial resolution says that the reservation system will allow rangers to "know who is in the backcountry".  Commissioner Travis Gosnell noted it is more about control that revenue.  Mayor Edwards said,"They don't want anyone back there".   Where were these type of political figures when we were battling the Smokies?

The end result is that they voted to adopt my two requests.  One was to take the legislation Myers wrote banning all future backcountry fees in the state of TN and asking their representatives, John Mark Windle and Ken Yager to sponsor it.  This bill will have the weight of the entire commission if approved on Monday the 13th, which I am sure it will.  We have a shot here at stopping all backcountry fees in the state of TN.

Second, I asked them to take our resolution about the Frozen Head fee and make it something that will be passed to all the other 95 counties in the state.  We are going to ask the other counties to condemn backcountry fees much like we did in Blount county.  This will get a buzz going in advance of our legislation proposal and start some media hype, perhaps.

I am very thankful for the Morgan County commission's courage, Erik for attending and Laurel for being a female presence. And Myers for crafting the legal language.  And Tab Burkhalter for crafting the original template. We will have to tweak the "bill", a point which the Mayor noted, but that was our plan anyway.  It is but a working document.  

Comment by John Quillen on February 25, 2017 at 8:38am

I thought about that Jim.  And then I thought about the 75th anniversary and they closed NF gap road from Alum Cave to Smokemont unless you had a ticket.  I don't think they charged for the event but am not certain.  They are probably relying on the fact that Clingman's Dome road isn't NF Gap.  Now the question remains, is it a public road?  I would like to have them answer that legal question for us.

Comment by Jim Casada on February 25, 2017 at 8:34am

John--While US 441 is a public highway, it's pretty clear it can't be closed to all save those who pay $30 to be eclipsed. On the other hand, I'm not certain about the spur leading from 441 to the Clingmans Dome parking area. If you want to take things a step further, this denies, at least on a short-term basis, access to those wanted to start hikes down various trails that are accessed by the spur (Fork Ridge Trail, etc.).

Obviously I'm a naif when it comes to the legalities, but surely any fair-minded person can only conclude that what is being done isn't fair--it's blatant commercialization of a national park.

Jim Casada

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