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 yesterday
Comment by Myers Morton on Friday

Thanks John.

David Lee dove in, but it turns out, we have everything covered.

Thanks David and everybody.

Stand down.

Comment by John Quillen on Friday

Is anyone available today to do a bit of hiking with Myers?  He could desperately use a partner to do some last minute stuff.  please let him or me know.  Thanks

Comment by Mark Cooke on July 15, 2014 at 12:23pm

When we first came upon this sign I was a bit confused mainly because of the orientation. Seems like it was for those hikers who are coming up the "chute" which they are calling Blair Gap Trail. Even stranger is the fact that someone with chainsaws went to a bunch of trouble throwing debris just a few feet below the sign, As far as the trail that heads West which is often referred to as the Hurricane Mountain Manway, it has had some good traffic on it as it appears to be in good shape. We ran into a deluge and lightning display at this intersection and I only got to venture up that way a couple 100 yards before the storm told me to head back down. You can see the front of the sign just a few posts below. The last post by DanG was exactly some of our conversation we had at this intersection. 

Comment by Dan G on July 14, 2014 at 6:15pm

Sorry about getting going with multiple posts in a row like this, but I think I was looking at the presence of this sign all wrong.

I don't think the sign is there to discourage garden variety Smokies hikers from using the manway, I believe the sign is there to discourage BF customers from using the manway.  They went as far as to erect a sign and obscure the trail (though they can't get over their love of chainsaws inside the park).   If my instinct on this is correct, the questions becomes, "Why has BF decided to tell their customers that the manway is closed?".

A phone call from Sugarlands is the most likely impetus, and I believe it went something like this:  "You guys are getting us killed, you need put the clamps on sending your customers down that manway until this legal thing blows over."

Comment by Dan G on July 14, 2014 at 6:01pm

It's interesting to note that the map made available by BF for the use of it's customers making foot/horseback incursions into GSMNP displays trail names inconsistent with general usage.

Although none of it is official, the commonly used name for the entire route through the park is the "Hurricane Mountain Trail" (or manway).  BF splits the route into two sections that they call the "Boundary Trail" along most of it's length, and from the junction at the edge of the park to Blair Gap, BF calls it the "Blair Gap Trail".

So it is quite interesting that a hand-painted sign nailed to a tree (A notification style wholly inconsistent with the NPS) declares that that "Blair Gap Trail" is closed.  When the NPS closes something, they make damned sure you know it's by their authority.

I have this week off at home after spending the last 5 weeks on the road.  If I get the chance, I'll paint up my own sign and hike up to Blair Gap and nail it to the tree below the closure sign.  It will simply say, "By whose authority?"  (Unless Myers would prefer I didn't).

Comment by Myers Morton on July 14, 2014 at 4:24pm

I plan on bringing it up this week in our filings in federal court.

Comment by Tom Johnson on July 14, 2014 at 4:19pm

I would love to see NPS response to that.  I hope Mark sends it to them.  Would also like to see the response on the Traveler blog.

Comment by Dan G on July 14, 2014 at 2:36pm


It might not need saying, but I'll say it.

A hand-painted sign at the Ace Gap/Beard Cane junction declares that the Hurricane Mountain manway (referred to on the sign as the "Blair Gap Trail") is closed.  This manway travels across NPS land inside the national park.

To my knowledge, the only areas of GSMNP that are "closed" are Little Duckhawk Ridge and the historical route up to the Chimneys.  Who is the authority behind this closing?  It's not the NPS, they use official-looking laminated NPS notices.  If I have my guess, it looks like BF is declaring their dominion over their personal corner of the Smokies.  I guess incredible wealth and political patronage tends to make one rather bold.

Did Mark remember to knock the sign off the tree and chuck it into the woods?

Comment by John Quillen on July 14, 2014 at 11:05am

Mark Cooke just did a recon mission to the Ace Gap/ Beard Cane area and those of you familiar with the intersection will notice the peculiarity of this sign.

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