I live in Franklin TN and recently discovered the 15th annual conference on National Scenic and Historic Trails was being held in Franklin at the Embassy Suites and Director Jarvis would speak Sunday morning. His presentation was very enlightening about the various roles and missions of the NPS along with some of there more pressing concerns and issues facing the NPS. Director Jarvis is a very good speaker and I actually learned quite a lot about the NPS's historic and current initiatives and many of the 400+ parks and 30 long distance trails in the system.
I wasn't sure if I'd have an opportunity to meet him, but I knew if I had the chance I would voice my support for a fee-free back country. I estimate maybe 50 or 60 other attending so the odds where good. I'm certain I was the only curious "Joe off the street" in attendance.

At intermission I met a woman who manages the Continental Divide Trail Coalition and she learned I came that morning to hear the Director speak. She facilitated an introduction and I first expressed my appreciation for the good work the NPS does and for his presentation. I found him very down to earth and easily approachable. 

Then I told him, and other NPS'rs attentive to our conversation, of my love for GSMNP and how, in fact, I intend to complete all 803 official trail miles the very next weekend of July 4. I told him while I love GSMNP, I strongly oppose the back country fee. I could tell he wasn't expecting this negative comment within a room full of park service employees and associates! 

I asked how for 80 years there hasn't been a fee, and now one is necessary. He said budgets from Congress have been flat for years. I asked how there can be a cost for a 2'x6' spot on the ground when obviously the real cost to operate the park are automobiles. He noted the park is not able to charge an entrance fee due to deed restrictions. Clearly he was well versed in the specifics of this issue. I made my case as brief and concise as I could.

They lady from the CDT insisted we get a picture, and I asked Director Jarvis to sign a coffee table book about long distance trails I picked up in the lobby. While I'm certain my one complaint will not change anything, he did listen and I really sensed he got it. I hope other fee fighters when given a chance, will voice their opinions in a positive way.

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Comment by frank w on July 2, 2015 at 10:55am

When you get to Jarvis's level you have to be a great politician.  They shake their head like their listening, make us feel good because we feel like they've heard what we had to say.  Of course, they recite all the talking points to justify what they've done and before we finish our next thought their thinking about what's for lunch.  There was a time when  I thought Ditmanson was listening until you looked at him and realized he was in la la land.  

Comment by John Quillen on June 30, 2015 at 2:05pm


You have the dubious distinction of being the only person to confront Jarvis on the fee face to face, that we know of.  Good work.  Ambush or no ambush, I'm glad he had to actually face a real person with real concerns.

Now if you were anheiser bush with a million dollar ad campaign, he could waive the NPS restriction on accepting corporate sponsorship to allow a beer company to subsdize the parks.  Maybe you are on to something!

Comment by Brent Edwards on June 30, 2015 at 1:48pm

I wasn't armed with details and I certainly didn't feel this an appropriate venue to begin a detailed debate.  I wanted him to hear a voice from a backcountry user WHO DOES NOT support the fee and who will not give up on the issue.  Of course he didn't want to address the topic and only offered short responses.  Know any philanthropist backpackers with $10M itching to fund an endowment that's conditional on a fee free backcountry?  Then you'll get your audience with Jarvis.  Unfortunately that's how Washington works and it's probably our best hope.     

Comment by John Quillen on June 30, 2015 at 1:17pm


I laud your fortitude in approaching Jarvis.  However, I suspect that had he known you were coming with that, the "audience" would never have been granted.  Because he has refused to grant an audience with any of us at any time either via email or in person.  And this is since the inception of the fee before we were lied to, degraded and stomped into the ground by dishonest Dale Ditmanson and his bosses.

From what I can tell, he did nothing but recite the deed restriction.  Was there any other substance to his remarks?  I would like to know how he justifies the manipulation of campsite data numbers and changing rationale for the fee?  That is why he refuses to meet with anyone over it.  He behaves like a king and expects to be treated as such.  That is why the conversation with these guys is one sided.  They refuse to cede anything to anyone.  He needs to be reminded that he is a public servant who's job is to create and explain policy and respond to stakeholders, which is us.

That has been absent from inception.   I would also add that, following our meeting that was FORCED with Ditmanson (he did everything possible to avoid meeting with us) that folks thought Ditz was a super nice guy who understood our concerns.  He even promised to look into some things.  

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