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 steve george 9 hours ago

None taken John.  You are too kind.

Comment by Jim Casada on Tuesday

John--As I have alerted you and Mark Cooke via e-mail, something strange is going on here. Two of my recent comments related to the Women in the Wilderness event have disappeared. I did not remove them. In each instance I simply pointed out that the promotional material describing the outing raised some questions about the nature of the event. I noted that if the camping was truly in a quiet part of the Park (i. e., backcountry) then it would be necessary for A Walk in the Woods to break Park rules limiting numbers to eight or else get some kind of special dispensation. Alternatively, I pointed out that I suspected the camping would be done in one of the drive-in sites and that if such was the case some highly suspect advertising or promotion was in play.

I don't know the detailed plans. I was merely raising red flags. One has to wonder if one of them came way too close to home and that somehow my posts were removed. It seems very strange to me.

Jim Casada

Comment by John Quillen on Tuesday
I just want to clarify something for everyone here. This isn't an issue of locals versus out of towners. somme of the hardest work done for the cause has been by people like mark cook of ky and chuck Schimmer of Ohio and Steve George of Louisiana etc. what I was trying to point out is that we are a diverse fee fighting group fighting a group of people who came down here to make their money. I apologize if that came across the wrong way to anyone.
Comment by John Quillen on Tuesday

Good eye, Mark.  I don't doubt that a bit.  Now we need to find out where Vesna really is taking her well heeled cabal.  Anyone want to put on the wig and dial a few numbers?  Sounds like Joey just volunteered.  I suspect it won't do any good.  She reads this site along with the GSMA and many others.  The GSMA is really going to great lengths so I believe we are shaking the right trees when they send their out of town Smokies profiteers  to the gutter.  When I say shaking the right trees, they are going so far as to say that Blackberry Farms never had a trail system and we are making the whole thing up.  Those are very libelous statements for an organization that is essentially a part of the NPS.  Good thing they are all documented on social media and NPT and now by the group that I accompanied there last week.    Of course, you would think that the GSMA would be concerned that Blackberry Farms has desecrated and clear cut hundreds of mature trees on NPS land.  They are becoming a newer version of Smokies holocaust deniers.  Perhaps Vesna's little upcoming field trip is connected in some way? She sure acts like she cares about nature when it suits her business interests, much like the GSMA representative.     Yes, sunshine has proven a very effective disinfectant with regard to these out of town Smokies profiteers.

BTW, I spent an incredible weekend at cs 2, my adopted trail system and did so fee free for two nights compliments of the park's VIP program and the assistance of Christine Hoyer, who replaced Melissa Cobern, the fee czar.  Christine is a very nice person.  One of the many "good gals" in the system.

Comment by Mark Cooke on Tuesday

Thanks Jennifer for the information about the "frontcountry" accommodations. Yesterday that word frontcountry was not on their website. There were two other people that looked at this with me and I called one of them after seeing your post, and they said it was not there as yesterday. Got to scratching my head and ah, I remembered I still had that page on my Safari browser on my iPhone. 

I pulled it up and before it updated and it DID NOT have the word frontcountry on the Women in Wilderness page. I just wish I had turned my phone off first and printed the document prior to letting it update. I actually watched it change before my eyes as it refreshed the page!

Well, that just shows what many of you had already knew, that the trolls and other bottom feeders are watching this website. One thing I strongly suggest is when you find something that is interesting or want to revisit later --- is to save a copy to a doc file. (My bad on this one) I have been doing that on several items over the last year. For example, there have been several versions and updates on the NPS website, particuarly about the Backcountry Rules and Regulations. One month you remember seeing something, and then the next time you go in the verbage has been changed.

There has also been an Amendment to the Compendium (Code of Federal Regs Title 36, Ch 1) that took place on June 20th, 2014. This covers the use of unmanned aircraft (drones and such) over the lands and waters of the GSMNP airspace. Of course this prohibited activity can be over-ridden by getting permission in writing from the superintendent. Guess you have to have a superintendent first. 

Comment by David Lee on Monday
Since WITW is located in Gatlinburg I suspect they are using the group campsites at Cosby. Can't find anything on NPS website about the number of campers in those sites though.
Comment by Jennifer Jones on Monday

The description on the A Walk in the Woods site says that the retreat "includes frontcountry camping accommodations".

Comment by Myers Morton on Monday

The outing is probably on BF property...not in the Smoky Mountains?

Comment by Joey Bridges on Sunday

oft. neglected women being led into a secluded part of the park by experienced female guides for meditation and guided visualization ?
i will gladly offer up my services as the holder of the camera.

has anyone checked to see if she's advertised this little outing on ?
sheesh !!!

Comment by Mike Thorpe on Sunday

What if someone were to scout this out and find they are conducting this or these events back country, and in violation of printed policies what a grand "press opportunity". It would be great to take some witnesses and video equipment to document the event and also to then contact Park authorities about the infraction and document their response.

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