Well it finally happened in my Smokies....sigh....

6:57 a.m. on March 8, 2012 (EST)
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The backcountry fees were approved. This stinks.

http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/mar/07/smokies-get-park-service-approval-for-fees/

 

I guess I'm gonna try to finish the trails I haven’t hiked yet this year while it’s still free.

8:36 a.m. on March 8, 2012 (EST)
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NO!!!! I really hope they do not do the recreation.gov thing. I hate that dam site. Im pretty sure that there are other parks though that still do not charge for back country or maybe im thinking about national forest areas...

either way this sucks.

8:49 a.m. on March 8, 2012 (EST)
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This has been a hot issue locally amongst backpackers and I still can’t figure what was so broken that it needed this "fix".  Granted I go solo 99% of the time but I’ve never had an issue getting a reservation to a site that requires it. And I don’t feel that the backcountry needs more policing. Why?

The Park gets over 8 million visitors per year. I understand that there are legacy laws in place the prevent charging them for access but why penalize the smallest category of user who also happens to be the category of user most inclined to protect the environment (leave no trace, etc…)?

This is such a multi-faceted issue: the motor tourists bring a lot of money to the region that supports the local economy which I think is a good thing. But they are also the ones bringing the most trash and pollution in to the park (not to mention they are the ones with the worst waste/hygiene practices as evidenced by the indiscriminate piles of human feces they leave unburied near any and all roads or parking areas).

Again why penalize the smallest and least impactful category of users? Arrghhh…

9:16 a.m. on March 8, 2012 (EST)
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Everything I have read or seen suggests to me that the current Superintendent is contemptible, manipulative, and  power-grabbing. This clearly is NOT in line with the intention of the original stipulations put in place when park was established.

Whether you agree with the concept of national parks charging for backcountry access, the program contravenes the binding governing charter for this park. They are prohibited from charging for access to the park; subverting that fact by reclassifying backcountry access as a "special activity" is an egregious semantic deformation of intent. 

9:25 a.m. on March 8, 2012 (EST)
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I've written long screeds about this Park debacle---to paraphrase Ed Abbey: Have fun outdoors BUT ONLY IN A CLOCKWISE DIRECTION!!---the nanny state will always contrive ways to cut up, parse, reserve, charge and designate our backpacking experience.  Heck, if I pulled a 20 day trip in the Park it would cost me at least $90.  So much for the free roaming backpacker.  And how in Odin's name would I know where I'll be camping on Day 16 of a long trip?

I guess the total acreage of the Park's backcountry sites amount to maybe 200 acres, and these acres are the only spots a backpacker can sleep at in a quasi wilderness area numbering 500,000 acres??  So, as a backpacker I can only camp on 200 out of 500,000?  This I find purely crazy and is the Nannification of the outdoors.  It's like a henpecking Mom finally got around to adjusting backpacking behavior.  Don't sleep there!  Show me your papers!  Reserve everything! 

So it becomes an Interstate trail with designated exits and designated motel stops, all cleverly annotated and parsed with the proper writs, addendums, provisios, permits and fee vouchers of the briefcased anglo-saxons in their coats and ties.

And yet the Park has the most polluted air in the country, as bad as Los Angeles, but the Head Motards don't charge $20 for every car entering the Park?  And so we end up with people on foot paying cash while the rolling couch potatoes and gasoline-addicted have full reign of the place?  Who's in charge?

Here's the Uncle Fungus Solution---

**  Charge each car $20.

**  Allow backpackers to get an annual pass or a lifetime pass, and forget about nightly fees.  A lifetime pass could be $1,000, etc etc.

**  Dump the Reserve Site system and open up the entire Park to camping wherever a person on foot can find a place.  This system works in the Mt Rogers National Recreation Area, the Cohutta and Big Frog wilderness, the Citico and Slickrock Wilderness, the Snowbird backcountry, on most of the Appalachian Trail and Benton MacKaye trail, and in the Cherokee and Pisgah and Nantahala and Jefferson and Chattahoochee National Forests. 

**  With 500,000 acres for camping instead of just 200 acres, the worn out designated sites can be seriously dispersed.

**  Charge a separate fee for Horse people, either overnighters or day riders.  Require them to have a steep annual fee pass or lifetime pass since the damage they do to the trails is enormous.

FINALLY

**  Finally, if the Park is serious about protecting the environment and doing their part to clean up the air, close the roads inside the park, dump the hated Cades Cove "Motor Nature Loop", and once and for all designate the GSMNP a wilderness area.  I can hear the Gatlinburg town council howling in protest.

** Put perimeter parking lots around the Park in 7 or 10 different locations and require backpackers and dayhikers alike to hike in.  Multi-use access is a worn out concept and appeals to the motored infants who can't bear to walk.  The Park will still be open for visitors, they'll just have to use their feet instead of their butts.  Amen.

9:59 a.m. on March 8, 2012 (EST)
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Gonzan,

Very, very well said!

Tipi,

I like most of your solution (although I don’t buy their assertion of a problem with the backcountry). And kudos for offering one instead of just bitchin about it like me!

I love the idea of designating the whole area as wilderness. I would tweak your plan to keep horses out completely (you know how I feel about that).

I really didn’t think this would actually happen and I do not like where this is going.

10:04 a.m. on March 8, 2012 (EST)
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I see many more trips to Cherokee and Natahala in my future.

10:05 a.m. on March 8, 2012 (EST)
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Patman said:

I see many more trips to Cherokee and Natahala in my future.

 no complaints from anyone down here ;)

10:31 a.m. on March 8, 2012 (EST)
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I'm all for an annual fee. But reserved sites? You have to be kidding me. Here I pay to park the car in the parking lot, and I think thats fair. But I hardly ever use a camping site. Heck most areas that I go to dont even have sites.

11:56 a.m. on March 8, 2012 (EST)
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They could legally get every penny they needed for maintenance of the park by simply charging for the cars to enter the park. As Tipi suggested, $10-$20 per car for entrance and parking. Walk-in visitors would be free; but don't provide any parking outside the park entrances.

By charging for the admission of the car, you are not charging the people themselves to enter or enjoy the park. This makes a good green statement as well as providing a great revenue stream.

JMO, YMMV

1:02 p.m. on March 8, 2012 (EST)
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Brings "stealth camping" to the fore ...

AND ... there is power at the voting booth.

WHO did YOU vote for, last election cycle ?

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1:04 p.m. on March 8, 2012 (EST)
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Mike,

For many years there have been reservation sites but the majority haven’t required them (some 100 established sites). It would quite a rigid hassle to have to plan every single spot to lay your head.

Overmywaders,

I love your idea on many levels. As Gonzan mentioned, the original charter stipulated that there could never be an admission charge (which probably has something to do with it being the most visited Park in America). This history posits that revenues from the Park tourism are largely responsible for Tennessee not having an income tax (I have no way to confirm or deny that). I just don’t believe the current notion that this reservation system and attendant fee is actually needed.

1:33 p.m. on March 8, 2012 (EST)
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Robert Rowe said:

Brings "stealth camping" to the fore ...

AND ... there is power at the voting booth.

WHO did YOU vote for, last election cycle ?

                                 *

                     pax vobiscum

                           ~ r2 ~

 x2

1:41 p.m. on March 8, 2012 (EST)
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OH yeah and now you need to get a green tent

1:44 p.m. on March 8, 2012 (EST)
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Callahan said:

OH yeah and now you need to get a green tent

 I've got a green tent but I'm not in a stealth camping mood. 

2:35 p.m. on March 8, 2012 (EST)
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I am used to doing this though in other parks, but GSMNP is the park I frequent the most.  I really don't mind paying reservation fees, I mean, hell people pay 90$ a night for a simple 3 star hotel, in the back country (to use the REI commercial statement) your sleeping under a few thousand star "hotel". I would be willing to pay 90dollars for 12 nights, but like has already been said, there are a number of places in that area that do not require permits or reservations,:Elcott, Slick Rock, Nantahalana etc.. There are always place to go where the rules are not strict, try out BLM lands, WMA lands, and your national forests.

BUT that all being said. I am pissed, because I do spend so much time in that park and it generally cost me 200+ bucks to get there  and 10 hrs of driving. It will greatly effect my choice of spot. For 300$( what it would cost to do a longer trip to GSMNP) i can get a flight to someplace farther away and not pay reservation fees or have to abide stupid rules or worry about some ranger ticketing me a few hundred dollars for something frivolous.

-MJG

4:13 p.m. on March 8, 2012 (EST)
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I also do not see how this could possibly NOT wreak havoc on the massive number of through hikers, if it is enforced. The article mentioned it, but breezed over it in a dismissive manner. 

5:18 p.m. on March 8, 2012 (EST)
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I will continue to ignore the imposed backcountry permit fees in National Parks. My fee is picking up and hauling out any trash I find from degenerates that leave littler behind...

10:37 p.m. on March 8, 2012 (EST)
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overmywaders said:

They could legally get every penny they needed for maintenance of the park by simply charging for the cars to enter the park. As Tipi suggested, $10-$20 per car for entrance and parking. Walk-in visitors would be free; but don't provide any parking outside the park entrances.

By charging for the admission of the car, you are not charging the people themselves to enter or enjoy the park. This makes a good green statement as well as providing a great revenue stream.

JMO, YMMV

 But reading the article, the original donor of the land only did so by stipulating that they could not charge for cars. IF they did charge for cars, any heir to the grantor could petition for the land to revert to the heirs of the donor. Be careful what you wish for or every single acre will be off limits. What you CAN do is hope that the 9th circuit decision of last month would have some effect nationwide in access to all public lands.

10:44 p.m. on March 8, 2012 (EST)
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That sucks.  I guess the current situation - no fee, but only camping in designated sites - is essentially the opposite of what I deal with.  Almost all of my backpacking is in Sequoia/Kings Canyon and neighboring areas, and I have always had to pay for wilderness permits.  But those permits are flat fees ($15/group in the park, $5/person if issued by a neighboring national forest).  The fee remains the same whether it is an overnight trip or a month-long trip.  To balance that out, with very few exceptions, I can camp anywhere I want as long as I am the required distance from bodies of water.

But now you get the worst of both - fees based on number of nights, and camping only in designated sites.  My brother lives in Oak Ridge and backpacks in GSMNP, and I have asked him if he ever thought about stealth camping away from designated sites.  It's a big park, and I don't see why you can't camp in suitable locations anywhere you want. 

Are they basing the fee on the argument that it is to recover the cost of maintaining the designated sites and shelters, or the trails?

3:55 a.m. on March 9, 2012 (EST)
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"Stupid is as stupid does."

Sometimes it better to keep my mouth shut and this is one time.

Those officials that did this can ###################### and ####################### for all I care.

You have to vent somewhere.

6:25 a.m. on March 9, 2012 (EST)
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A little history:

Pollution is beginning have a permanent effect on the beautiful mountain views. Development around the Park has created unbelievable traffic jams at certain times of the tourist season, particularly on weekends. Officials are exploring ways to solve these problems. It won’t be easy, because one huge promise was made in the original charter was that there would never be an admission charge and that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park would always be protected for the enjoyment of all the people for generations to come.
Here is the link from where the above was copied: 
http://www.gsmnp.com/pages/history.html

I didn't realize that Hikers don't fit that statement of "all the people". We are just a few and evidently we need to pay. 

7:50 a.m. on March 9, 2012 (EST)
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the deed associated with one of the roadways (Newfound Gap Road) apparently provides that no license fee or toll can ever be imposed for using the road.  it would take an act of the Tennessee legislature to overturn it.

I strongly suspect some other types of user fees, not focused on driving, might fit within the terms of the deed.  call it a 'facilities fee' or a 'day use fee' that charges anyone who enters the park, by motor vehicle, foot, or bicycle, for  using the park's picnic, camping, recreational, and/or sanitary facilities (which they undoubtedly do).  focus on usage not driving.

hate to tell you what my hourly rate is....

 

8:38 a.m. on March 9, 2012 (EST)
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leadbelly2550 said:

the deed associated with one of the roadways (Newfound Gap Road) apparently provides that no license fee or toll can ever be imposed for using the road.  it would take an act of the Tennessee legislature to overturn it.

 So let the Tennessee legislature overturn it.  Is free-range tourism more important than an air-polluted Park?  I know, most of the pollution comes from coal plants outside the Park, but the 10,000,000 visitors zooming thru surely don't help.  The Ranger boys need to show some leadership.

8:54 a.m. on March 9, 2012 (EST)
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Even if they overturn it the road fee legislatively, it can NEVER change the conditions under which the land was granted which included no feed for the cars. NEVER. the power of the original owner was to place conditions on what COULD be done. Well, there is that little rule against perpetutities that could effect it further down the line having to do with heirs and lack thereof and certain offspring at certain points of life and death, but it truly is the worst part of law school and to try to explain it would cause my brain to fall off its shelf.

11:24 a.m. on March 9, 2012 (EST)
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leadbelly2550 said:

hate to tell you what my hourly rate is....

 

MINE is easy on the wallet.

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10:47 a.m. on March 10, 2012 (EST)
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I assume that most visitors to the park wish to park their cars at some point and enjoy the scenery. Charge a parking fee. Parking is not a toll on a road but a separate enterprise; besides city people are accustomed to pay for parking.

A NH state park of only a few hundred acres on the top of a small mountain near me charges for parking. The parking lot is usually well-filled.

9:23 p.m. on March 12, 2012 (EDT)
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The state can always change the conditions, eminent domain. But that can get expensive. Trick is to find some use the grantor didn't envision as the basis for a fee. Personal usage or parking in places that didn't exist at the time perhaps.

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