[at-l] Smoky back country fees

Tenacious Tanasi tenacious_tanasi at yahoo.com
Wed Feb 15 20:02:23 CST 2012


I posted this on fb ....

I'm really torn over this... 

The Smokies were supposed to be promised forever free to the public within the agreement that there would never be a license fee or toll in exchange for the lands given from the state of Tennessee to the National Park Service. I really do admire the heart and spirit in which that agreement came about and wish that all of the park system had come about with such agreements. HOWEVER, With over 9 million visitors annually, the GSMNP is the most visited national park in America. Those same 9 million plus visitors per year are also slowly killing the Great Smoky Mountains. We're loving our mountains, their flora, fauna, and animals literally to death.

In a study conducted by Dr. Daniel Stynes of the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies at Michigan State University, it was found that in 2010 the GSMNP visitors spent $818B+ within the gateway communities. 11,367 estimated local jobs were also supported by park visitors. If you're curious for more information the study is entitled "Economic Benefits to Local Communities from National Park Visitation and Payroll, 2010".

Now, if that many people will spend that much in the local communities, then what in the world would be wrong with asking them to pay $1 per day per person for using the park? To be honest that $1 per day will not recover the footprint left by that very person in the singular day of damage they affect. But, with the new federal fee legislature 80% of fees collected remain within the respective collecting park. Therefore, we know without a doubt that the majority of funds would stay right here in the park. A tremendous amount of work could be accomplished for continuous improvements within the GSMNP with those kinds of funds. 

AND, WHILE I DO NOT AGREE... I DO NOT AGREE WITH GOING ABOUT IT THROUGH BACK COUNTRY CAMPING FEES SINGULARLY, I DO THINK THERE HAS TO BE SOME KIND OF FEE TO OFFSET THE TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF WEAR THAT THE MILLIONS OF VISITORS PER YEAR DO WITHIN THE PARK. 

And, honestly, I think that those that had the heart and spirit to insist upon the agreement to ensure free use to the public forever would be able to see the damage that we're doing here and the need to fix it.

The attached article brings up some very salient points. 

1. There needs to be some back country trash clean up. Every time we go out we bring back at least a bag of garbage. And, it's sad to come walking up on a family and watch the kids throwing down trash and the adults don't make them pack it out or even acknowledge the trash! 

2. We need more Leave No Trace educational programs... especially for kids that visit the parks.

3. There needs to be ridge runners out there being mindful of the tourons who have no sense to start hikes out earlier in the day, wear appropriate clothing, bring their beloved pet to be a bear snack, or that simply get lost. 

4. Trails need to be maintained as do shelters, privies, visitor centers, etc. 

5. Durable surfaces in the more frequented areas need to be put into place for bike riding, walking, etc. 

6. Air pollution is a serious issue... especially in the Cove. What about banning all cars from Cades Cove and or other parts of the park and implementing a trolley system run off propane trolleys? You pay a quarter per person to get on each time. Or, you pay $5 per day use to go all over the park via the trolley system. At Acadia National Park, they had these kewl trolleys you could even load your bike up on the front or rear of it. Not only would this help tremendously on the air pollution issue, it would provide more jobs within the park system AND it would cut down on traffic!

I have seen how some fees can tremendously help the park system... we just need to make sure that it is spread evenly to all users and not just picking on a certain section. It has to be fair, simple, and capped.

In 2010 it was estimated that there were 9 million park visitors... at $1 each for day use that would have been $7.2 million dollars to put toward helping to ensure that much needed improvements could be made and maintained to keep the park around for our children's, children's, children's, children's... you get the picture... so that they, too get to walk up to Clingman's Dome or sit atop Chimney Tops or enjoy lunch at the base of Ramsey's Cascades or on a blanket in the Cove... watching deer munch on grass nearby. 
 
Tenacious Tanasi
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