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 John Quillen on November 6, 2019 at 7:35am

Because that is what Trump would expect, were he ever to set foot in a campground. But his daughter and son in law were in the Smokies a couple of days ago. Wonder where their Amazon delivery went?

Comment by Dustin M on November 5, 2019 at 11:23am

"At the urging of a controversial team of advisors, the Trump administration is mulling proposals to privatize national park campgrounds and further commercialize the parks with expanded Wi-Fi service, food trucks and even Amazon deliveries at tourist camp sites." - more in the LA Times link below

Comment by John Quillen on September 29, 2019 at 2:19pm

Ran into this Friday on the Rich Mtn Trail.  Some SOB has cut this road right up to the park boundary at 3500 feet. Incidentally, this is one of the few times I have hiked this trail and NOT seen bear. Big surprise?

Comment by John Quillen on September 5, 2019 at 7:05pm
Comment by John Quillen on September 4, 2019 at 8:24am

I'm not on facebook but I hope people wear them out. Is he a proponent of an entrance fee?

Comment by Dustin M on September 3, 2019 at 5:41pm

Some people who commented said they had no idea about the deed agreement 

Comment by Dustin M on September 3, 2019 at 5:41pm has a Facebook page and today he updated his status with a blurb about 'Why there is no entrance fee to the GSMNP' ...  this would be a good opportunity to spread awareness about the Park's efforts to lift deed restrictions as Killboy's page is highly trafficked 

Comment by John Quillen on August 20, 2019 at 10:17am

They obviously don't know how slow I jog, Mark.

Comment by Mark Cooke on August 19, 2019 at 6:04pm

I clicked on the top link of John's response to Radnor Lake below that took me to the state of Oregon, and the trail head Baskett Slough NWR. Their explanation was:

"One of the challenges with jogging is that it could have an adverse impact on wildlife in the process of breeding," said Miel Corbett, deputy assistant regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Activities with higher speeds can be disruptive and cause stress to the animals."

But, is not stress to animals a hypocrisy of their own rules by allowing deer hunting during the rut?

"Deer hunting with both shotguns and bows is allowed during autumn......"

Two things I learned today, speed disrupts animals by adding stress to their life, hunting is a slow sport, so trying to harvest a deer during the rut adds no stress to the animal, not to mention the sound of a shotgun being fired. 

Comment by John Quillen on August 19, 2019 at 4:36pm

I received a response about the Radnor Lake jogging restriction today. And here it is.

Mr. Quillen,


Thank you for your recent inquiry regarding jogging at Radnor Lake State Park and State Natural Area. This is a question we often get from our visitors. While this restriction is obviously not popular with all visitors, in the end TDEC believes it is a net positive for the park and the public.


Radnor is intended as a wildlife oasis in the middle of a growing metropolis, so everything we do at Radnor is intended to help preserve the unique characteristics that make Radnor so wonderful. Because of its location, Radnor hosts approximately 1.6 million visitors (and growing!) per year. This makes Radnor the most visited state natural area in the State of Tennessee and top 5 in annual attendance for a Tennessee state park as well.  However, Radnor is far from the largest park, so the trails can get crowded on busy days. TDEC believes that allowing trail running would add to that congestion and, more importantly, would distract from our mission and the true purpose and beauty of Radnor: wildlife viewing and birding. Running detracts from the tranquil environment we seek to create in order to promote great chances for wildlife viewing, as it can be interpreted by some species as a predatory action. Prohibiting pets on trails is a similar wildlife viewing-focused safeguard we employ that, though sometimes unpopular, is intended to bring the visitor as close to wildlife as possible.


It’s important to note that running is not completely prohibited in Radnor. Visitors are welcome to jog along the paved portion of Otter Creek Road within the park that is not open to vehicular traffic. While not a dirt trail, this 2 miles of roadway still gives visitors the chance to run in nature and be present in the verdant beauty of Middle Tennessee. Also, there are two Metro Nashville parks (Percy Warner and Edwin Warner) with great trails that allow jogging and numerous other recreational activities just a few miles from Radnor Lake. We also have some other great state parks near Nashville at which you can do many of those activities.


Also, Radnor Lake is not the only wildlife observation area in the country to have this rule in place.  For your convenience, I have provided two examples of other managed public areas with the primary focus of wildlife observation below that prohibit running on trails:
All animals and plants in the sanctuary are protected. Please take only photos and memories. We recommend that you bring water, bug spray, binoculars, and a camera when you explore the boardwalk. (Water bottles, bug spray, and binocular rentals are available in the Blair Audubon Visitor Center ...


Lastly, this particular safeguard has been in place for over 20 years. At the time it was implemented, the park’s local non-profit support organization, Friends of Radnor Lake, was very supportive of this decision. Also, the Radnor resource management plan (last updated December 2016, attached) specifically states that jogging is prohibited in the park, and all RMPs are available for public viewing upon request.


We believe this preservation effort has protected a unique environment where people can escape the hustle of life in town to a designated birding park/natural area. Numerous birding enthusiasts travel to Radnor Lake annually just to bird watch during different times of the year, and our goal is to preserve that exceptional environment.


For your convenience, I have attached some additional links to highlight our mission and the primary reasons Radnor Lake was saved from development in 1973, as well as examples of why our 1.6 million visitors annually come to the natural area to enjoy these unique wildlife viewing experiences just 8 miles from downtown Nashville. 

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