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 Jim Casada on July 11, 2018 at 6:10pm

It's heartening to see local leaders with enough vision for the future and enough respect for the past to resist dollar driven might.

Jim Casada

Comment by John Quillen on July 11, 2018 at 4:07pm

I would have lost this bet, Jim and AJ.  Way to go Blount County Commissioners!  This is the second time we have seen them do right in a big way.

Comment by John Quillen on July 10, 2018 at 7:37am

"money minded minions of greed".  beautiful alliteration, Jim.  You are correct and we can do little to stop it. I predict their variance in zoning will cruise through with little political resistance.

On another note, congratulations to your Swain Co people in getting the remainder of the Lakeshore Road monies. I see that Zinke is taking credit for it, but in my eye it was every politician in NC from Shular to now that put in the time on that one. Either way, getting millions from the feds is a miracle in itself and I didn't expect them to see it.

Comment by Jim Casada on July 9, 2018 at 9:17pm

What an unholy mess. I don't really have a dog in this fight, other than caring in general about what is happening within the Smokies, but these money-mad minions of greed care nothing about locals. They may talk about more jobs, hiring locals, being good for the economy, and the like. In truth their motivating force is money--nothing more and nothing less. 

I can only hope enough locals see the long-range implications of all of this. Blount County stands to lose its soul and its identity.

Jim Casada

Comment by John Quillen on July 9, 2018 at 9:04pm

I didn't know about it until I saw it on TV, AJ.  Or I would. They are slowly gobbling up every piece of land on the Blount side of the Smokies. They have recruited climbers locally to develop a crag and top mtn bikers to build a trail system. (I only know this because the guys doing it told me so). The article shows that they are building a huge parking lot over there on part of the land. Perhaps they can call it Lamar lot #2.

Comment by Andrew Sisson on July 9, 2018 at 8:53pm

I read the article today.  This is horrible.  Blackberry Farms has so much control.  Did you go to the meting?  

Comment by John Quillen on July 7, 2018 at 1:31pm

A lot of locals showed up to express their concerns about Blackberry Farms pending expansion of 5000 acres of Chilhowee mtn and rezoning request.  Anyone want to take bets on who will win this contest?

Comment by John Quillen on July 5, 2018 at 9:41am

David Vela is apparently the next guy in line to lead the NPS. To refresh everyone's memory, he is the guy to whom Jim Casada and I wrote expressing our concerns about Ditmanson and his mishandling of the feeasco. Vela went out of his way to make excuses for Dale and Fitzgerald. I specifically remembering him saying our comments were not "germane" to the fee argument.  So that is apparently a prerequisite for advancement within the NPS.  He is the swamp within the swamp.  Incidentally, several politicians are resurrecting a bill to increase funding for the "backlog" within the NPS that apparently grows by the minute. If this passes, then their excuses for fees will be nil. Will we get a refund of fee money and elimination of backcountry fees?  Of course not.  But what you and I can do is let these folks (of which Lamar is one) know that we will support increased NPS funding only if they agree to eliminate entrance and backcountry fees entirely.  After all, Lamar said that he would do away with the backcountry fee if it didn't work out.  At least, that is what he had his aide tell me right after he said he didn't have time to meet with any of us.

Comment by John Quillen on June 26, 2018 at 10:22pm
Comment by Jo Jackson - Neuspickel on June 18, 2018 at 5:04pm

Yes you are right, we have known each other for a few years but we have never met!! You have gone places that this girl will never see unless in a video! One day we will share a campfire I hope!

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