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.

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. 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 Erik Gerhardt on March 30, 2017 at 4:08am

Norway's national parks are true wilderness areas, too, with no fees whatsoever (and no tawdry gateway communities).

Sweden has the same "right to access" primitive camping policies.

Comment by John Quillen on March 28, 2017 at 9:05am

Norway is one of the happiest countries in the world.  Why, you may ask?  Here is one HUUGE reason

You may put up a tent, or sleep under the stars, for the night anywhere in the countryside, forests or mountains, as long as you keep at least 492 feet away from the nearest inhabited house or cabin.

Comment by Dustin M on March 27, 2017 at 12:27pm

They need to be arrested for gross negligence and tried in the court of law. There is no reason people in Gatlinburg should have burned to death. This is not the 1800s. 

I don't know about enlightened, but I'm no kool aid drinker. 

If I ever left this place you would have to drag me back against my will at this point. 

Comment by John Quillen on March 27, 2017 at 12:14pm

You'll get no arguments out of me, Dustin.  I just returned from two weeks in France.  I remember, during the buildup to the Iraq debacle, which proved to be more of a mistake than any we have ever made, that certain news outlets told us to boycott this country who questioned our rush to war.

We are in worse shape than I have ever seen it in my lifetime .  And it takes going oversees to realize the quality of life other Western nations enjoy.  Other folks are inherently happier than US citizens.  I personally believe it has to do with education and exposure to other cultures.  Our government is entirely corrupted and we see it on all levels from the top to Lameass' most recent opposition to wind power because he probably has interests in oil and gas.  Yet we elect him time and time again.  Or do we?  

You were right on the money with the Gatlinburg fire.  Cash and his crew are going to get sued big time.  And only now are the media beginning to see what we have been saying about those crooks for years.  Consider yourself enlightened.

Comment by Dustin M on March 27, 2017 at 12:02pm

This whole country is going to hell. 

Comment by John Quillen on March 27, 2017 at 12:00pm

Comment by John Quillen on March 19, 2017 at 12:10pm
Here is the content of that article.

Frozen Head camp fee made official

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Windle asks fee be reconsidered

By Joe King
Tuesday, February 21, 2017 at 3:37 pm
Despite local and visitor opposition, Frozen Head State Park will charge a fee for backcountry campsites starting April 1.

According to a release sent by Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the fee for a regular four-six person site will be $3 plus tax per night. Those sites include Bird Mountain, Coffin Springs, North Old Mac, Panther Branch, Panther Gap Rock House and Spicewood. The fee for larger group sites will be $8 plus tax per night and includes Judge Branch, Mart Fields, Squire Knob and Tub Springs. In addition, a $5 charge will be applied once per reservation. With both the “fee” and “charge” that means the small site would cost more than $8 and the large site would be just more than $13 for a night stay. Entrance to the park will remain free.

The release states, “the modest fees will go towards campsite and trail maintenance and improvements, ensuring every experience lives up to a visitors’ expectations.” The release also says since visitors have to pre-register before camping, the new system will increase safety because rangers will know who is in the park. The release further states that with the fee there will be specific site improvements that include wooden outhouses and increased access to nearby water supplies.

But visitors who expressed their opposition to the fee such as John Quillen of Knoxville, said the fees are double taxation, and he will boycott Frozen Head out of principal.

“The amount of the fee doesn’t matter to me — it’s the principle of it,” Quillen said. “TDEC obviously isn’t swayed by pesky public opinion.”

Quillen, who also heads the 150-member group Southern Forest Watch, said all the members of his group will boycott Frozen Head out of principle as well.

Quillen wasn’t alone in voicing his opposition to the Morgan County Commission last Monday. In fact, he was joined by a chorus of other visitors from Knoxville such as Scott Noethen, who also told Morgan County News he would no longer visit Frozen Head if the fee were implemented.

Quillen, Noethen and others who spoke of the fee quickly got the attention of the Morgan County Commissioners, who also agree to oppose the fee as an official body and called for the drafting of a resolution to express the local concerns. Commissioner Jerry Zorsch, who heads the Tourism Committee, said he’s worried the fee will reduce the number of visitors to the county and have a negative impact on the local economy. After reading the release, which was sent after the commission voted to oppose the fee, Zorsch said he’d like more information about the fee before taking an official stand on one side of the issue or another. Zorsch said since the fee and charge is much less than what was presented to the commission by visitors who opposed the fee, he would like more time and information to consider the issue.

Morgan County Executive Don Edwards said the tourism committee will meet on Feb. 27 to decide what course of action it would like to take.

“I understand that public institutions need extra money, but there has to be some other avenue that can be explored that doesn’t involve basically renting property that doesn’t have any extra services,” Edwards said.

State Sen. Ken Yager said he has been contacted about the fee and has asked TDEC to provide a report on it. State Rep. John Mark Windle said he has asked that TDEC remove the fee.

“I have asked the commissioner to reconsider the onerous fees placed on visitors of Tennessee State Parks,” Windle said. “This action is just another example of more government overreach and continues the disturbing trends of restricting access to our public lands and increasing fees.”

Frozen Head State Park has about 50 miles of backpacking trails, and is home to the famous Barkley Marathon. The park and natural area encompass more than 24,000 acres of wilderness and are named for a 3,324-foot peak in the Cumberland Mountains, just outside of Wartburg.

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Comment by John Quillen on March 19, 2017 at 11:31am

TDEC says F U t

o everyone including Rep Windle and Sen.Yager.   Wow.

Comment by John Quillen on March 14, 2017 at 1:05pm

The NPS does no wrong, Jim.  Business as usual. And to think everyone told us to give the new guys a chance. And look what they did.

On a brighter note, it was great to see such a receptive Commission and Mayor as Erik Gerhardt and I experienced last night in Morgan County.  Those are good people who detest what Frozen Head and TDEC is doing to them.  We are sending this resolution to all 94 remaining counties for their ratification.  The disconnect between the Ca$h's and TDECS of the world and taxpayers grows daily.  They truly are Kings and Queens.

Comment by Jim Casada on March 14, 2017 at 6:49am

This past week, in a press conference held for members of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association, Supt. Cash addressed the devastating fire. According to an individual who was present, in the question/answer period Cash was asked what, in retrospect, he would have done differently in reaction to the Chimneys fire that spread, killing a number of people and causing massive destruction. He had a one-word answer: "Nothing."

That either shows astounding arrogance or myopia. If this is true, then obviously the NPS will do nothing to change its protocols for dealing with fires and indeed go ahead as if no tragedy occurred. Or, to put it another way, if there is the established conviction they did nothing wrong, why even have the wildfire symposium?

Jim Casada

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