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.