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Another County Opposes Backcountry Fees At Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Another county whose lands include Great Smoky Mountains National Park has gone on record opposing the park's fee for overnight backcountry use.

Though the vote by the Swain County (North Carolina) Commission is only symbolic, it marks the second county commission that has voiced disapproval of the $4 per person per night fee instituted earlier this year. Last month the Blount County (Tennessee) Commission passed a resolution opposing the fee.

The backcountry fee, which is capped at $20 per person per trip, took effect February 13. It is intended by park officials to help streamline and improve the backcountry permitting process and heighten the presence of rangers in the backcountry.

Pinched by an inadequate budget and unable to charge an entrance fee for any of the roughly 9 million yearly visitors, park officials see no way of improving visitor services and protecting backcountry resources without charging users who spend the night in the woods.

In their resolution adopted Tuesday night, the Swain County commissioners noted that the park contains cemeteries containing the graves of past county residents and that "many Swain County residents use the backcountry campsites to visit the cemeteries wherein their ancestors are buried, to explore the home places that their ancestors occupied, and to enjoy simple outdoor recreation."

Furthermore, the resolution stated that the commission "has a genuine concern that the imposition of this unique fee may lay the groundwork for the imposition of other fees for the use of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which may further reduce park visitation to the detriment of Swain County's small businesses and government."


And more counties are on the way. Since the park superintendent ignored these counties when he started this process, other relevant stakeholders are going to follow suit and expect a weekly condemnation of this egregrious, unwarranted and disingenuous "foot in the door" fee against the best citizens of the Smokies. I think that people should know that in the beginning a citizen offered to develop a reservation software for the superintendent and he brushed them aside. Then citizens offered to man the backcountry office and the Superintendent brushed them aside. This is about a cascading tidal wave of fees for use of the donated park. And citizens are pushing back. Thanks for covering this story NPT!

From what I understand this fee does nothing to protect the backcountry, provide more rangers or anything else to help the park or visitors! It ONLY pays for the new reservation system! The old system worked just fine to me! Beside the fact that it will cost my "family" more to camp in the backcountry than some of the developed frontcountry campgrounds! That just doesn't make sense to me!

What is remarkable about the backpacker tax is the law requires the National Park Service to FIRST contact local politicians and citizens before implementing a new rule or tax.

You reckon the National Park Service failed to follow that law?

No matter how you slice it or dice it, this new fee amounts to an entrance fee for a certain user group and is specifically prohibited by FLREA. And when you hear the testimony from local residents against the fee you can understand why the prohibition was placed in the law. It's curious to me why a vereran superintendent such as Dale Ditmanson chose to ignore this foundation and move ahead so brazenly.

Interesting development, or reaffirmation, from Swain Co. This has become a P.R. nightmare for the NPS. The only so-called "public servants" in the Park Superintentent's pocket are those he's able to intimidate by political threats or calling in a political favor. They, too, would likely love nothing more than to be free of him but figure the Good-Old-Boy NPS won't act. Everyone else is unencumbered and undeterred; no one would trust the man with a nickel or risk a penny on his word of honor.

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