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)

Views: 140486


You need to be a member of GotSmokies to add comments!

Join GotSmokies

Comment by John Quillen on August 4, 2019 at 10:04pm

Thanks Dustin, I love knowing this stuff is going to hit his inbox in the morning.

      Misfud is MIA. There is only one person capable of making that happen. Da?

Comment by Dustin M on August 4, 2019 at 9:47pm

I just sent him an email citing the Preservation Act , maybe he will have a change of heart soon. 

What to make about Joseph Mifsud ? I didn't read it all 

Comment by John Quillen on August 4, 2019 at 9:28pm


I've been doing a lot of research and it appears, as Frank discovered, that Radnor Lake is operating under the Natural Area Preservation Act of 1971.  I read the entire thing. (Yes, I'm weird like that. I also read the entire Mueller Report and I bet you don't know anyone who did that)  Under this act, the only thing I could find that gives them the right to restrict activities is the following language.

 The commissioner is authorized to make and shall enforce certain regulations necessary
for the preservation and enhancement of the values herein protected, and for control of
recreational, educational, scientific and other uses of these areas in a manner that shall not
impair them.

There is nothing saying that jogging is restricted. In fact, Frozen Head is also classified as a level 2 State Natural Area.  Jogging isn't restricted there, and neither is offtrail hiking nor backpacking. But that language above is probably the basis upon which they are justifying this stupidity.  Now Frank found a thread on reddit where folks were speaking of actually receiving $165 fines for jogging on these trails.  I can tell you that those trails are at least six feet wide, so erosion is not an issue nor is capacity.

Looks like we have an overly zealous decision that was made by a local manager.

Comment by John Quillen on August 4, 2019 at 5:45pm

No kidding, Dustin. Since it isn't outlined there, it must be ok, right?

I sent the following letter to the Director of that particular park. If anyone else would like to question him, his email is included below. I wonder if anyone has brought this up.

Sent: Sunday, August 04, 2019 4:11 PM
Subject: Radnor Lake jogging restriction


Mr. Ward,


I am writing you on behalf of the Southern Forest Watch. We are a Knoxville based environmental watchdog group and our focus is on ensuring access to public lands by taxpayers who fund them.


Last week, while on a work trip to Nashville, I visited Radnor lake and was shocked to see, for the first time in my life, a restriction upon jogging on your park trails.  Understand, Mr. Ward, that I have hiked, climbed, camped and run all over the world and never in my life seen this particularly egregious and apparently unwarranted restriction imposed upon public lands users.


So, I would like to ask about the specific rationale employed to impose this restriction. Is there some type of environmental impact study, particular incident or data to justify this restriction?


Was this restriction vetted and submitted for public input and if so, could we have a copy of the public comments in support?


Please understand that we have been involved in a variety of public lands issues on both state and federal levels. The last time we became involved in a state park issue that affected access by taxpaying stakeholders, we had no difficulty in persuading the Morgan County Commission to unanimously adopt resolutions opposing restrictions at Frozen Head in Wartburg.


Our board, which is cc'd above looks forward to your response.




John Quillen

Board President


Southern Forest Watch



Comment by Dustin M on August 4, 2019 at 3:56pm

On the plus side, ATV riding, Mountain Biking, Gold Panning, Metal Detecting, Horseback Riding, and Hunting seems to be OK 

Comment by John Quillen on August 4, 2019 at 3:46pm

I was in Nashville for the past few days and googled up somewhere that I could squeeze in a trail run in between conferences. I settled on Radnor Lake State park.  When I got there, all suited up for a round the lake loop, you can imagine my surprise when I encountered this sign at the trailhead.

And I was curious, if anyone has ever "run into" this sort of restriction at a Tennessee State Park?  In my mind, I rationalized that it was a Nashville thing because I don't see any East TN residents ever standing for any such ridiculousness.  Take a look at what else is not allowed.  Next, you won't even be allowed to walk in there.

Comment by Mike Thorpe on July 23, 2019 at 11:44am

Sounds like a suspect situation at best , gee might the whole bunch of them be covering each other's backsides? I sure hope the suit goes through! I suspect it might open a flood tide of interesting revelations about some of their underhanded tactics and backroom dealings!

Comment by John Quillen on July 23, 2019 at 10:46am


Good to hear from you. I had heard through the grapevine, that one of the kids was the son of a law enforcement official. Could be pure scuttlebutt, but you never know.

Comment by Mike Thorpe on July 23, 2019 at 10:33am

PS: Does anyone have any idea why or how those kids charged with starting the fire, got off so quickly and completely? Seems odd to me as if they may have had something on someone? I cannot imagine that they were not charged or convicted of anything???

Comment by Mike Thorpe on July 23, 2019 at 10:30am

Howdy Folks! It's been awhile since I have posted, but am with y'all in spirit. Atone time I read that the entire situation was aggravated if not in part caused, by some of the flunkies starting a (failed attempt) at a back fire. Has any further evidence or information come of this that you know of? It seems that at the least there is evidence of gross negligence on the part of those in the park service who are supposed to be responsible and act accordingly...I sincerely pray that this and any other suits go forward!

© 2022   Created by John Quillen.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service