Remember last time GSMNP attempted fees for a backcountry reservation system?

Was wondering if anyone frequenting this site might recall exactly what year it was that the Park Service previously floated the idea of backcountry fees to pay for a computer reservation system. They held public meetings, which I attended, but I can't recall what year it was and haven't been able to turn up mention of those meetings with online searches. I'm thinking it was somewhere around '02 - '04. What I do recall is that the plan they put forward was to construct their own in-house reservation system and supposedly charge only so long as it took to recover the cost of getting the system up and running. (Seems, too, that they hired a consulting firm to explore possibilities.) Also I remember the public's response was decidedly in opposition to the plan and very few believed that backcountry fees would, in fact, be temporary. So fast forward some 10 years and, as I understand it, the reservation system they're now about to implement (after finding Reserve America unsuitable) has been uniquely created for GSMNP. This time, though, the fees are to be permanent. So, again, does anyone know for certain what year the Park Service previously tried to get this system in place?

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Comment by Dan G on February 24, 2013 at 12:59am

It was around '02, by 03 - 04, it had already dropped from sight.

Comment by Erik Gerhardt on February 23, 2013 at 10:37pm


Possibly at McClung or elsewhere at UT, certainly I would think at the research library at Sugarlands. I'm not sure how useful such info could be, but it couldn't hurt. I just need to make time to get out and track it down. I think I've probably exhausted any chance of turning up something online.  

Comment by Gregg Bostick on February 23, 2013 at 12:02pm


Do you think there might be some information at the McClung Museum about this?

Comment by Erik Gerhardt on February 13, 2013 at 3:37pm

Continuing to search for reference to these meetings, and though I haven't turned up anything specific, the searches have sparked a little more of my own recollection. Folks from Virginia Tech were involved in the Knoxville meeting (quite a few VA Tech papers out there from the mid 90s through early 2000s on backcountry use in the park). Also a Backcountry Management Plan was drafted by officials at GSMNP in 2002 (only found mention of this document, but can't find the actual Plan online); so I'm thinking the meetings might have taken place around that time. It's interesting to me because, again, they were trying to gauge the public's reaction/ acceptance to a "temporary" fee that would fund a new software program for making backcountry reservations. No system is perfect -- though what we just had for non-rationed sites was as close as there will ever be -- but if officials could make a convincing case that the new one would help with the shelter situation and provide user flexibility for all rationed sites, a TRULY temporary fee would, in my mind, be acceptable. Better yet, have the groups already funding most of the backcountry "improvements" (FRIENDS and the ATC) help with the start-up costs and provide users the ability to DONATE when they make their reservations. If I knew such a donation would only be used, initially, to pay for the "new and improved" system and, later, only to fund backcountry projects I would gladly give. The problem, of course, is that history has repeatedly revealed the priorities of administrators at GSMNP, and because of this the public would be rightfully skeptical that their donations were being used as intended. To be forced to pay, especially considering the volunteer force and outside funding that is doing the majority of work in the backcountry, is unacceptable -- even shameful.     

Comment by John Quillen on February 10, 2013 at 10:36pm


I have heard that they tried to do this before but can't for the life of me remember when. I am inclined to think it was prior to that date because I definitely would have taken notice during that time frame.  I know that Ditmanson said they had made all campsites reservation basis back in the 80s but I do not recall having to jump through those hoops back then.  A Freedom of Information Act Request could turn up that information which could be helpful to our lawsuit.  I will mention it to our attorney, Myers.  Good thinking.


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