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 Wednesday

This is where the NPS would like to go with all "frivolous" Backpacking.  I'm reminded of when Ditz called backpackers a "fringe group".

Comment by John Quillen on Wednesday

County opposes Frozen Head Park fee

By Joe King

Visitors to Morgan County asked the commission for their support in opposition to a proposed fee at Frozen Head State Park, and they got it.

<div class="source">JOE KING/MORGAN COUNTY NEWS</div><div class="image-desc">Morgan County Tourist Scott Noethen of Knoxville makes his opposition to the fee known to the county commission. </div><div class="buy-pic"><a href="/photo_select/37843">Buy this photo</a></div>
Morgan County Tourist Scott Noethen of Knoxville makes his opposition to the fee known to the county commission.

During Monday’s County Commission meeting several residents from nearby counties spoke out about a $10 per person proposed backpacking fee at Frozen Head State Park.

“If they want to charge for back-packing I won’t come back; I wouldn’t pay it on principal,” said John Quillen, an avid hiker and frequent Morgan County visitor.

Quillen and others opposed to the fee see it as an unjustified charge since state parks are public land and funded through tax dollars.

“The whole idea of double taxation and the amount of money that would be spent to enforce all of these fees, makes me think that it would be advantageous to put your resources toward something that would encourage people to visit rather than deter them,” added another Morgan County hiker, Scott Noethen, of Knoxville.

Noethen said if the fee were implemented he would bypass any Frozen Head trips and use Big South Fork instead. Quillen added that when he comes to hike he often spends money locally on food, gas and other supplies, which would be money lost to the county.

The Commission heard their visitors’ concerns and took action. The Commission agreed to write a resolution stating its official opposition to the fee and vote on it next month. The Commission then decided to vote to let their opposition of the fee be known prior to the next meeting, as to accelerate any impact the local government body may have in stopping the fee.

“I think the fee is going to hurt Morgan County,” said Morgan County Commissioner Jerry Zorsch, who heads the tourism committee. “It will be another thing to make the park difficult to access, especially for young people. I think it’s going to hurt us overall.”

Morgan County Commissioner David Hennessee, who is involved in many local nature-preservation groups, agrees the fee is a bad idea for Morgan County.

“I don’t think you should charge any fees at Frozen Head,’ Hennessee said. “It would decrease our tourism, and we need to increase our tourism. I don’t think you’ll find anybody in Morgan County that would favor this fee.”

The response from the Commission encouraged visitors, who said they would no longer travel to Frozen Head if the fee takes hold.

“I’m thrilled that the commission was on board,” said Loral Dunn of Knoxville. “They seem to have the same stand that we are getting taxed twice. It’s our land. As taxpayers, it is public land. I was very excited to see the enthusiasm they had against the fee.”

Quillin, who said he has been fighting fees in parks for years, said he’s not sure what impact the commission can have, but hopes that others will make their opposition to the fee known by contacting their local representatives.

“This very much impacts Morgan County economically,” Quillin said. “I think the state would be remised not to incorporate comments from the local political body. The only people who support this fee are the bureaucrats who will get paid as a result of it.”

Morgan County Executive Don Edwards said he agreed with the commission and opposes the fee, as he believes it will negatively impact visitation to the park.

A representative from the park did not return a Tuesday morning call for comment about the fee prior to the Tuesday afternoon press time.

Comment by Dustin M on Tuesday

Fantastic !

Comment by Rob Cameron on Tuesday

It sounds like everything went well. Sorry I had to bale on coming, but it sounds like you all handled things just fine. I look forward to hearing the details around a camp fire this weekend.

Comment by Erik Gerhardt on Tuesday

Thanks for the recap and thanks to all who attended. Great to hear that Morgan Co. is eager to stop this nonsense before it becomes entrenched.

Comment by John Quillen on Tuesday

Here is the recap of tonight, copied from a letter I sent to Jim Casada.

Jim,  It was a beautiful thing.  I wish you could have been there.  Morgan County is probably like Swain County.  It is very small and poor community whose largest employer is the Morgan County Regional Correctional Facility.  Myers, Gregg, Me, Laurel and Scott Noethen, a "triple crown" hiker,  (ATx2, PCTx1, CDTx1) all spoke to a totally mesmerized and quite large commission.

After handling the county business the county Mayor reached the "other business" section.  He could not move quickly enough to the Frozen Head Issue.  You could tell we hit a hot button.  He essentially asked what we wanted them to do.  Every commissioner was falling over themselves to throw out ideas.  We asked them to draft a resolution condemning it.  Then the Mayor said he was going to talk to the state commissioner, then he organized the tourism committee to come up with even more plans.  In essence they did three things for us. 

Judging by the way we were approached and interviewed afterwords, they were deeply appreciative. In fact, one commissioner gave me his cell phone number.  As we were eating in town, the guy texted me back to say that the more he thinks about what they are trying to do, the madder it makes him.

Gregg made the point he hasn't been backpacking in the Smokies since the fee.  That really got their attention.  I told them I came back to Frozen Head because of the Smokies fee.  Scott discussed the administrative costs associated with these fees, and how he would avoid anyplace that charges one.  The commission noted that all of us were from Knoxville area and drove all this way to make that point. (Myers was the only person wearing a tie in the building!) He waved a copy of our Tn State House Resolution.

The local paper interviewed three of us and we couldn't hardly get away from him.

This is going to cause big headaches and a huge case of Frozen Head Syndrome.

It was a rousing success.   I'm thrilled.      Thank you Morgan County Commission for taking the time to invite us and listen to our concerns.     FREEZE FROZEN HEAD FEES


Comment by Dustin M on Monday

I emailed that State Lawyer too

Comment by Dustin M on Monday

I won't be there tonight, but I will write them an email right now. 

I was planning on going and recording the meeting if it was allowed. 

Comment by John Quillen on Monday

Imagine the surprise when you come into your office at the Cumberland Trail Office and discover that what you and hordes of volunteers have been working on for over a decade will now in the form of TN's first long distance hiking trail, will require taxpayers to ante up to use it.

Frozen Head did not consult the Cumberland Trail people.  They didn't consult the Morgan Co Commission and the Wartburg Mayor .  As a matter of fact, I cant find where they posted it anywhere in the public record AS REQUIRED.

But what is the law to bureaucrats, anyway?    The Cumberland Trail folks are pissed.  Now Cumberland trail hikers will have to pay to hike this path.  The only spot along the Cumberland Trail where a credit card is required.

Comment by John Quillen on February 12, 2017 at 5:43pm

I just figured out that the newly evolving Cumberland Trail goes through Frozen head and will require thru hikers to pay to camp at the Bird Mtn Campsite.  This can be sticky for the State Park folks.  Does anyone know anyone with the Cumberland Trail group?  We could use them there tomorrow night as well.  If folks can't come, I hope you will at least send in your comments about this.

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