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

Frank and I are planning to go up there tomorrow to Sevierville and volunteer for the afternoon.  If anyone else wants to join us, here is a link where you can volunteer to assist.  Sign up under the Southern Forest Watch team from 12-4.

Comment by Mark Cooke on Thursday

Here is a map to some of the documented devastation. You can zoom in and click to visit areas that you may of wondered if it is still there. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families that lost their loved ones.

Comment by John Quillen on Wednesday

Myers said it was two juveniles playing around with matches.  How did he know?

Comment by Jim Casada on Wednesday

As a native of Swain County and someone who has been keenly interested in this issue all my adult life, I was at one time a member of the group working for a monetary settlement. However, it became increasingly obvious to me that the leaders of the group (one of whom was Leonard Winchester, who is quoted in this article) were going to accept a partial payment, herald it as a great victory, and be stuck with the situation they now face. Alas, I fear the balance will never be paid.

Incidentally, it also became fairly obvious to me that the group was, if not "in bed" with Ditmanson at least all too closely allied to him. When I e-mailed all members of the group at the time the back country camping fees first came to the forefront, Leonard Winchester had a fit and said I might endanger their relationship with Ditmanson by being critical of the fees. In my view, in doing so he revealed all too clearly that he and the other leaders of the group for whom he spoke had abandoned principle for partial payment of the supposed "settlement." I would also note that in this article Winchester wants to talk about the road never being built rather than addressing the real issue; namely, failure to get the money and the NPS turning a completely blind eye to the matter.

Jim Casada 

Comment by John Quillen on Wednesday

Seems as if the Asheville Newspaper is pointing fingers at our old buddy, Dishonest Dale here regarding the Northshore Road Settlement.  Ironically, I heard through the grapevine that Ca$h is presently paying Dale as a "consultant".  To the residents of Bryson City, I would amend his w-2 to read "Insultant"   I'm reminded of the lyrics, "Don't get fooled again".

(below is an excerpt from that article)

Whose fault?

Carson wonders about federal officials' commitment to the settlement. He said he suspects a former Smokies superintendent and other officials have "honestly felt like the whole time they didn't really owe Swain county the whole debt."

The county's lawsuit says the head of the National Park Service, Jonathan Jarvis, told county officials in 2015 the Park Service would never again ask Congress for settlement money.

A Citizen-Times request for comment from the Park Service was not returned.

A motion from the federal government in Swain's lawsuit does not take a position on what Jarvis might have said to Swain officials. Instead, it says the government has no obligation to ask Congress for money and the lawsuit is premature because the 2010 agreement gives the government until 2020 to pay.

Comment by Dustin M on Tuesday

“I don’t think the city was prepared for what happened," Baldwin said. “There was nobody helping us – we were on our own. ... We had no idea how to get out. No idea.”

Baldwin said he "never got a text alert. (I) never got anything like that and never was told I had to leave.” He said his wife's phone got no alerts either. “I’m shocked that there weren’t more people killed.”

Of the night of the fire, Baldwin said he came home around 6 p.m., and saw a police officer in full gear and mask at Cherokee Orchard and Historic Nature Trail. He asked the officer if there was evacuation order, and the officer said no. Baldwin said he saw fire cresting over the Park Vista and called 911; they said it was a voluntary evacuation.

At around 9 p.m., “We decided we better go. … It was too late. The fires were on the front of us and behind us. ... We thought we were dead.”

Comment by Dustin M on Tuesday

That would account for the fire disaster, the evacuation disaster is a whole other disaster in itself.  I hope that is not what started the fire though. 

Comment by Dustin M on Monday

All this was said together in about 2 minutes. I had the video running + watching a movie with my kids when I heard talking. After I realized it was picking up audio from the news crew I plugged my headphones in and that is when I caught the conversation. 

Comment by Dustin M on Monday

I am almost sure it was John Becker that took the call. It was his voice and he walked in front of the camera while he was talking and even let out a 'oops' , when he realized he was standing in front of the camera. It did not show the face however, but I have listened to Becker long enough that I am positive it was him. 

Comment by Jim Casada on Monday

Dustin--the link is gone, presumably because some high muckety-muck interceded. Looks like there is a scramble in various quarters to cover derrieres, but then that's pretty predictable in bureaucratic and political circles (and there octopus-like tentacles of influence). Curious indeed, especially to someone who has always felt that about the only things that flourish in darkness are mushrooms, and they do best when supplied with ample quantities of horse manure. I think it distinctly possible that liberal application of manure is in the works.

Jim Casada

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