I want to say thanks to Greg and John for welcoming me to the site.
I've been backpacking the Smokies for more than 30 years now, and I'm not real happy with the way things are going on in the park.
I have come to this site as "other sites" are fully supportive of this egregious backpacker fee and our equally offensive Park Superintendant.
Of course I'm thoroughly disgusted with the new "backpacker fee" that will be upcoming. It's not just the money--though that is important--It's the loss of the ability to take a spontaneus trip to spend a night or two out in the woods. Many times I never know if I'll have the weekend off untill quitting time on Thurs or Fri. I live reasonably close to the park, so it's a natural destination for a trip-on-the -fly.
What disturbs me most is the disregard for public input shown by the NPS before implementing the new fee. I wrote to Sen Alexander and Rep Duncan. That I was ignored by Alexander didn't surprise me, but when I got no response from Duncan, I knew the fix was in. Due to redistricting, I am now in Rep Roe's district, maybe I can get some response from him.
Finally, if I want to backpack the Smokies right now, do I pay a fee, make a reservation or what? I see on the GSMNP site that they have announced the fee upcoming, but the only firm information they have is a reference to the $5000 fine and 6 mos in jail for violating park rules. What a debacle, they announce the fee, state the punisment for not paying, and then don't have the system set up to pay the fee so you don't violate the rules. Incompetence followed by intimidation.
I am also concerned about the very long closure of Beard Cane Creek Trail and campsites #11 and #3. What's up with that? I hear rumors, but nothing of substance. Unfortunately, time has been short lately, and I haven't wanted to possibly waste a precious weekend to go exploring what is going on over there, choosing instead to go to a a place I know I can legally backpack with no hassles, like the South Fork, South Cumberland or Mt Rogers.
I'm just coming up to speed on these subjects, so I'm looking to find out what I can and to lend my weight to trying to resolve these issues.
I am looking forwards to meeting some of you folks and working together to make our park a better place for all Americans to enjoy.