[at-l] Breaking News: Smokies Backcountry Camping Fee Approved

Eddy ewker at yahoo.com
Wed Mar 7 11:49:54 CST 2012

well that sucks. Time to get your Smokies backpacking fix in before next yr

Conquest: It is not the Mountain we conquer but Ourselves 

--- On Wed, 3/7/12, Jim Smith <cutter78 at gmail.com> wrote:

From: Jim Smith <cutter78 at gmail.com>
Subject: [at-l] Breaking News: Smokies Backcountry Camping Fee Approved
To: "at-l" <at-l at backcountry.net>
Date: Wednesday, March 7, 2012, 10:30 AM

Smokies Backcountry Camping Fee Approved

      GATLINBURG  -Great Smoky Mountains Superintendent Dale A. Ditmanson

has announced that the Park’s proposal to begin collecting for the use of

the Park’s backcountry campsites and shelters has been approved by the

National Park Service. This approval clears the way for the Park to move

forward with developing an on line system to collect fees beginning in 2013

for reserving and use of the Park’s backcountry by overnight hikers and


      The Park developed the plan in order to improve its trip-planning and

reservation services to users and to expand its backcountry Ranger presence

to better protect park resources through enforcement of food-storage and

other regulations and  improved visitor education regarding Leave-No-Trace


      The proposal was open for public comment last summer and some 230

written comments and two petitions were received during the comment period.

According to Ditmanson, the public comments provided a great deal of

constructive input on the concerns Park backcountry users had about the fee

plan. “Many commenters were under the misconception that the Smokies is

legally prohibited from charging user fees.  The Park is prohibited from

charging a toll or license fee from motorists crossing Park roads, by

language in a 1951 deed under which the ownership of some park roads was

transferred from the State of Tennessee to the National Park Service.  But,

we have long been authorized to collect user fees for specific activities

such as front country camping, weddings, and commercial filming.”


Smokies Backcountry Fee Proposal – page 2

      “There was also a significant amount of concern about our initial

plan to utilize the same computerized federal reservation system,

www.recreation.gov  that virtually all national parks use to reserve

drive-in sites in front country campgrounds. We acknowledge that some of

the policies, such as the lead time for making reservations and

cancellations, are not a good fit for more spontaneous backcountry users.

We will not use that system unless we are convinced that it can provide the

level of service we want to offer, and are exploring the alternative of

developing a stand-alone software program tailored specifically to the

Smokies. The system developed will also need to be practicable for

Appalachian Trail thru hikers whose itineraries evolve from day-to-day.”

      “Concern was also raised about the range of fee amounts that were

under consideration and that the resulting revenues may be diverted to

other programs. We have decided to focus our plans around the lowest and

simplest of the fees under study: $4 per night per person. Most

importantly, 100% of the revenue from this program will be invested in

improving back-country services through extended hours of the back-country

office, trip-planning assistance, on-line reservations, and protection of

park resources through increased ranger staff. ”

      Now that the proposal has been approved, Park managers plan to

provide periodic updates as plans for the reservation system evolve.

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service

employees care for America’s 395 national parks and work with communities

across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home

recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov.

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