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 Mark Cooke on Sunday

It did not take long to clear the bear problem off the Mt. LeConte shelter with the upcoming Memorial Day crowd. Killing the bear guaranteed revenues to keep coming into the NPS Cash machine.

There are 1088 hiker and 341 stock allocations per the NPS reservation site on any given date. On the night of 05/23/15 there was basically a NO VACANCY sign for the hikers.

1054 permits were sold per the NPS Reservation Web site. That says 96.88% of the hiker sites were sold. Only 34 spots were not paid for.

As far as the "stock" there were ZERO horses/mules in the backcountry during the same night.

I did not know there were that many parking spaces to accommodate all those people in the backcountry on one given night. They must of car pooled!

Comment by Rob Cameron on May 19, 2015 at 4:15pm

Yeah, that was my take on the situation. Interesting that the trail head is at the top of the steps to the Lodge, but they close the shelter that is at least a quarter mile away. I wonder if they will offer to escort people up the trail next?

Comment by John Quillen on May 19, 2015 at 2:09pm

"The bear followed the guy back to the lodge"

Where he has been fed, undoubtedly, by lodge patrons.  Therefore, shelter peons shall be denied their right to utilize the backcountry lest they pay $150 to Stokely Concessions and stay in the lodge.

Comment by Myers Morton on May 19, 2015 at 2:08pm

And if they'd built the shelter with a cotton pickin cage on front, there'd be no problem.

Comment by Rob Cameron on May 19, 2015 at 1:22pm

Very interesting! They close the Cliff Tops trail and the shelter, but the Lodge's cash register keeps ringing. SMH

Comment by Mark Cooke on May 18, 2015 at 9:26pm

Regarding CS 17, the Park's Web site said:

May 9th - 11 permits, May 10th - 4 permits, None on May 11th or 12th.

May 13th - 5  permits, May 14th - 5 permits, May 15th - 14 permits, May 16th - 14 permits.

Comment by Jo Jackson - Neuspickel on May 18, 2015 at 8:51am

Keep me in mind! I would love to help out in any way I can!

Comment by John Quillen on May 18, 2015 at 8:44am

Thanks Jo!  We may be knocking on your door.  I believe that Myers brief is due in mid June.

Comment by Jo Jackson - Neuspickel on May 18, 2015 at 8:25am

When it gets to Cincinnati if you need a voice or someone to speak (kinda) I am up here in that area. I work 10 miles from Cincinnati and also live sorta close. Don't know if you will need anyone else but I can be available (usually with a short notice I can get off work).

Comment by John Quillen on May 17, 2015 at 11:09pm


I won't be here to help you find out the real numbers.  But I will be on the Ruth Glacier in Denali and paying the NPS $10 for ten days with no amenities provided.  That seems like a bargain compared to what we are getting here.  They also give free passes to volunteers who accrue a certain amount of volunteer hours.  How many of us would benefit from that in the Smokies?  Ditmanson said he would make no concessions unless you are a concessionaire, then you get a free backdoor login to the reservation system here in the Smokies.

SFW is going through "mediation" with the NPS, acc to Myers.  It is more lipstick on a pig because we know the NPS has no intention of making any concessions with bothersome taxpayers. We will agree to their mediation requirement.  And proceed to carry our legal fight to the appeals court in Cincinnatti.  Hopefully there, we can find an honest judge concerned about that incovenient contrivance most non government types  call "the law". 

(I was at cs 17 thursday and there was zero evidence anyone had camped there for days.  And the weather was beautiful)

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