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. http://www.westernslopenofee.org/pdfuploads/Fee_Policy_White_Paper.pdf

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.

Recreation.gov 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 Mark Cooke yesterday

This is what I posted to the Comment section regarding the civic engagement for increased fees on the frontcountry campgrounds. Their comment section sucks as it takes away punctuation and crams all your paragraphs up. After it's sent you can't do a thing about it. Another fine piece of NPS web work. If you are planning on making a comment you have one day left to do so.

To the GSMNP Superintendent:

The NPS has shown repeatedly they only ask for public comment because their policy says they have to. The GSMNP cannot manage money, however, they spend countless dollars/time explaining why more is needed. If the $77.5 million in Obama Stimulus funds were managed in a professional manner there would be no need to be asking for an increase at this time. I have not had a raise in over 15 years but have managed to live within my means.

Under FLREA you say you are able to keep 100% of the funds received, and you tell that “most” campground and pavilion fees are spent in one of three areas of park operations: 1. Operations, 2. Rehabilitation Projects, 3. Other deferred Maintenance backlog & Special Projects. The foot note at the end of the FLREA discussion states – “A minor exception is that 20% of revenues collected from the sale of interagency passes are expended on special projects across the NPS”. Looks like to me you don’t really keep 100%, but somewhere between 80% or greater depending on where the “special projects” are located across many NPS sites. And when did 20% (1/5th) become a minor amount? That is $80,000.00 on the $400,000.00 expected to be generated from these fee increases.

The NPS speaks about not wanting to create unfair competition with private sector facilities in the area or put them at a disadvantage. After all the NPS is a not-for-profit agency so why not reach out to the private campgrounds.  Here’s a novel idea, why not raise the fees 25% above the private sector so the locals can flourish and grow their businesses. That may help the NPS cut some of the operating costs unless more campers come because of higher fees. Hey, that’s the way the NPS sees it in the backcountry – the GSMNP implemented a fee instead of free and now say they have increased growth.

Just to point out how the NPS manages our tax dollars:  While staying in the Cades Cove Frontcountry Campground the following was observed. An authorized contractor came in and removed the older concrete parking bumpers at individual campsites, busting them up as they were dropped into a dump truck. These bumpers looked perfectly good and were well mounted/positioned at the end of the pavement. Fixing something that was not broken and wasting my hard earned tax money just grates my backside.

And lastly, I would have never believed it if I had not heard it with my own ears. A 6th Circuit Court Judge said in reference to the FLERA rules and the rule of law, that even when public comments are in opposition, the NPS does not have to follow the civic engagement response. ”You don’t decide this by taking a poll”, she said.  

I am not for increased fees. Basically this is a poll and our thoughts do not matter, so as the record speaks do what you wanted to before this public engagement began.

Comment by Dustin M on Friday

Unfriend any Hillary supporter you know. 

Comment by Dustin M on Friday

Forward to Bernie supporters and tell them about the corruption. They will jump at the chance to remove him. 

Comment by Dustin M on Friday

Forward to Trump supporters and have them tell Jon Jarvis "YOU'RE FIRED!" 

Comment by Dustin M on Friday

Forward it to your Veteran friends and remind them during the shutdown how Jarvis turned Veterans away from Memorials. 

Comment by Jo Jackson - Neuspickel on Friday

Signed

Comment by Dustin M on Friday

Signed and Forwarded

Comment by Jim Casada on Friday

John--Thanks for the link and folks might want to read the piece and consider signing the attached petition. Certainly it merits the attention of everyone interested in our national parks and their future.

Jim Casada

Comment by John Quillen on Friday
Comment by John Quillen on June 21, 2016 at 10:34pm
Thank you for your interest in Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Your comments regarding the Proposal to Increase Fees were received on May 31, 2016.

On Tue, May 31, 2016 at 7:39 AM, John Quillen a href="mailto:johnquillen@c" target="_blank">johnquillen@> wrote:
This email will not matter and I realize it is an exercise in futility.  You will increase fees and check the box on public participation.  So I pen this in full cognizance of this sham process.  However, at some future time when we audit the public comments, this, along with hundreds of others will bolster our point that you public lands managers ignore the public you are tasked to serve.
And we will FOIA the comments, rest assured.
John Quillen

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