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 January 16, 2018 at 3:23pm

Because it is a snow day at work, I went back over every one of the public comments, (We FOIA bombed them) By a small percentage the number of respondents opposed the fee. 

Looks like Ca$H has returned to Sugarlands in a big way and is living up to his name after his time out in Washington following the wildfire.

Comment by Dustin M on January 16, 2018 at 3:12pm

Pricing poor folks out of poor folk activities ... POS NPS 

Comment by John Quillen on January 16, 2018 at 2:11pm
Great Smoky Mountains News Release
Release Date: January 16, 2018
Contact:  Dana Soehn, Dana_Soehn@nps.gov, 865-436-1207
Jamie Sanders, Jamie_Sanders@nps.gov, 865-436-1203
Park Announces Frontcountry Camping Fee Increase
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced a fee increase for frontcounty campgrounds and picnic pavilions effective March 1, 2018. Over the past year, officials reviewed public comments, operating costs, and projected budget levels to determine the rate increases which range from 10% to 25%. 
The rate increases are necessary to meet the rising costs of operations, reduce a backlog of maintenance requirements on park facilities, and initiate needed improvements. Park officials are also improving the efficiency of campground management by adding three campgrounds to the national reservation system through Recreation.gov.
“Park visitors have long enjoyed camping and picnicking across the park in spectacular settings that offer space for relaxation and renewal,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Maintaining and servicing these facilities in the mountains presents a unique set of challenges and, with increasing costs, these fee increases are necessary to ensure the continual care and operation of these special places.” 
The park operates nine open campgrounds, seven group campgrounds, six picnic pavilions, and five horse campgrounds. The current fees have not been increased since 2006 or earlier at any facility aside from Cataloochee Campground which had an increase in camping fees in 2011 when it was added to the reservation system. 
In addition to fee increases, the park is also adding Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain and Big Creek campgrounds to the National Recreation Reservation System to improve operational efficiency. Beginning in early March of 2018, all sites will require advanced reservation and payment prior to arrival in the park through Recreation.gov either online or by phone. By placing these three geographically remote campgrounds on the reservation system, the park can reduce campground operation costs by eliminating the need for staff time for the collection of fees. The reservation system also provides a more efficient process for visitors to secure an overnight stay without traveling to the remote locations to check for vacancies.
By law, the park retains 100 percent of the camping and pavilion fees. The fees are used primarily to operate these facilities. This includes maintaining buildings, grounds, and utilities, providing visitor services, and funding rehabilitation projects, such as road resurfacing and replacing picnic tables and grills. Some revenues are also used to maintain park infrastructure and other special projects beyond these sites. Over the years, the park has had to compensate for rising costs from inflation by reducing visitor services, delaying maintenance repairs and improvements, and, at many sites, shortening the length of the season when facilities are open, having a particularly adverse impact on visitors during the shoulder seasons.
The park completed a 2016 comparability study with campgrounds in the surrounding communities and the study revealed that, while park camping fees in the park have remained mostly constant since 2006, campgrounds in the surrounding communities have continued to rise. Even with the fee increase, park campgrounds will remain among the least expensive in the area.  
For more information about campground facilities in the park, please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/carcamping.htm.
-NPS-
Comment by John Quillen on January 12, 2018 at 7:27am

Dustin,

Apparently one senator is looking to see how Zinke spent $40,000 dollars of Interior money to fly around on jets under the guise of "visiting wildfire areas" without actually visiting wildfire areas. Understand he has been called out for doing the same thing while serving in the military as a Navy Seal.  No wonder he needs to restructure the dept so he can have more tax dollars for his jet setting lifestyle. https://www.nationalparkstraveler.org/2018/01/senator-wyden-calls-i...

Comment by Dustin M on January 9, 2018 at 7:53am
Comment by John Quillen on January 5, 2018 at 9:10pm

2018 promises that more bad behavior within the NPS is rewarded with promotion. https://www.nationalparkstraveler.org/2018/01/former-nps-official-f...

Comment by Mike Thorpe on December 22, 2017 at 1:47pm

Looks like Park Visitors best buy some asbestos suits and gear...Merry Christmas, the NPS is a gift that keeps on costing isn't it....

Comment by John Quillen on December 22, 2017 at 12:50pm

Looks like Ca$h is back at the helm in the Smokies.

Comment by John Quillen on December 21, 2017 at 10:15pm

This is the first time I have seen a public suggestion that the NPS in the Smokies lit a backfire near park headquarters prior to the great, fateful event.  I'll bet some lawyers will be all over that one

 http://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/local/tennessee/gatlinburg/2017/...

Comment by John Quillen on December 19, 2017 at 8:35am

They are amending the Wilderness Act to allow mountain bikes on hiking trails. Strangely enough, the mtn biking community doesn't want to be on the trails and is opposing this legislation.  As a mountain biker myself, I see the need to protect these trails from mtn bikes. But, politicians know best.   https://www.nationalparkstraveler.org/2017/12/hikers-mountain-biker...

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