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Smokies considering charging for backcountry camping
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Heath Pitts
(heathpitts) - F

Locale: Nashville
Smokies considering charging for backcountry camping on 08/15/2011 10:47:35 MDT Print View


Brad Fisher

Locale: NC/TN/VA Mountains
Re: Smokies considering charging for backcountry camping on 08/15/2011 13:27:10 MDT Print View

Well the government at work again. Let me see:

1. Charge for the 90 backcountry campsites and hire more rangers to ensure compliance. Given that the park is 500,000 acres that would sure take a lot of rangers. I think the cost of the rangers would outweigh the additional fees.
2. Maybe a better idea would be to charge a minimal fee to the 9 million visitors a year. Seems like that would raise a lot more money and could be used for trail maintenance, more rangers, etc.

More rangers are needed, but for the front country and not the backcountry. On my last trip I was at a shelter with a ridge runner. Heard on his radio that they had a bear sighting on a trail close to the road. A short time later I heard the message that some guy with a cooler and his kids just headed down the trail to see the bear. What the rangers deal with in the front country is unbelievable.

Since we are making improvements why don't we open more of the backcountry in the Smokies to primitive camping. A lot of the 90 sites are over used and the bear problems are usually at the most used campsites(i.e. easy meal). If they would let us spread out more and use sights less frequently I think that might solve several problems (i.e. overuse, bear issues, etc). Not like we are going to have a lot more people all of sudden start backpacking because you ease up the backcountry restrictions.

Just my two cents.


Chris Lucas
(ChemE) - F

Locale: SC
100% Agree on 08/15/2011 16:47:29 MDT Print View

Well put Brad. More government is seldom the answer to any real problem.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: 100% Agree on 08/15/2011 19:45:03 MDT Print View

You need to write your Congressman and express these views ...
(not that it will do any good).
But sometimes it does.

John Whynot

Locale: Southeast Texas
Re: Re: Smokies considering charging for backcountry camping on 08/15/2011 19:55:47 MDT Print View

>2. Maybe a better idea would be to charge a minimal fee to the 9 million visitors a year. Seems like that would raise a lot more money and could be used for trail maintenance, more rangers, etc.

Can't be done without the state of Tennessee changing the terms of the deed restriction imposed when Tennessee transferred ownership of Newfound Gap Road to the federal government...

Mat Tallman
(wehtaM) - F

Locale: Midwest
fees on 08/15/2011 21:11:17 MDT Print View

With the dire situation our country is in (please don't let this digress into a political discussion), and in light of the treasure our National Parks represent to current and future generations, I'd be more than happy to chip in for my use of the Park's resources, if it helps to ensure its preservation.

I agree with the above, that reform to the way the backcountry is regulated might be in order, though with the ignorance that seems to run rampant among even backcountry campers with regard to LNT and general etiquette I'm not sure changing the current regs that forbid stealth camping outside regulated campsites would be beneficial. The current sites ARE heavily impacted, but that seems to help preserve 99% of the land at the expense of the 1%.

Current rules generally don't stop those who know what they're doing from stealth camping, but generally keeps those who don't from doing so. Seems like a decent situation to me.

Bottom line, charging could reduce volume of campers, raise a little bit of needed revenue, and even help support/improve the park's conditions. If the prices are reasonable, I'm for it.

Chris Lucas
(ChemE) - F

Locale: SC
Modest Park Entry Fees on 08/16/2011 05:53:41 MDT Print View

Modest park entry fees could do wonders for my favorite park. Given the huge number of people who stick only to Newfound Gap Rd, a $1/car charge may well be enough money to shut Cades Cove Loop to vehicular traffic, erect a suitably large parking lot, and run a tram around the 11 mile loop. How nice would it be to NOT have to drive for an hour to get to the Gregory Bald trail head just because a deer is in a meadow?! The Honda Hoot would also raise tens of thousands for the park every year if a modest entry/usage fee were imposed.

Regarding backcountry camping, it is a shame that one size fits all. I can wish for some sort of one day short course on LNT that granted one a special license to camp outside of designated shelters and campsites. That might still prevent the uneducated or unwilling from impacting the balance of the land while offering those who care to legally camp off the beaten path without harming that which we love.

Clint Wayman

Locale: East Tennessee, US
$mokies on 08/17/2011 13:37:59 MDT Print View

If recollection of my Wildland Recreation course serves me well, I believe that included in the instatement of the Smokies as a National Park was a clause stating that access into the park would always be free. As well, charging per car does not seem feasible, given the number of vehicles that pass through the park only as a means of getting into NC. When I first heard the rumor I was a bit ticked, but I am starting to think that it might not be a bad idea if it can REALLY help preserve my closest National Park. I don't mind supporting something that I care about. A good number of us pay for BPL memberships, right?


EDIT/ADDITION: that article seems to need some clarifying; they are only suggesting a backcountry fee, NOT a park entrance fee.

Edited by cwayman1 on 08/17/2011 13:41:53 MDT.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Smokies considering charging for backcountry camping on 08/17/2011 13:44:18 MDT Print View

The road is why cars will not be charged. And it shouldn't change either! A deal is a deal. But neither is it weird that highways stay free. Out here you can drive 2 state highways for free around Rainier and the state highway through the North Cascades is free.

But could hike in the West where entry to a NP is $15-30 and then you have backcountry fees on that. So count your blessings....

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: And PS on 08/17/2011 13:48:14 MDT Print View

EVERY national park can be donated to, directly. Your local donations stay in the park as well in nearly all parks.

When I visit a NP that is free I donate to the park.

James McDaniel
Smokies considering charging for backcountry camping on 08/17/2011 13:50:31 MDT Print View

I'll be glad to pay. Charge away and hopefully they will use it to protect it.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Smokies considering charging for backcountry camping on 08/17/2011 13:54:45 MDT Print View

+1 James.

In Canada, you pay for both backcountry permits and overnight passes at EACH campsite. What do we get for that? Either bear lockers or bear hangers and an outhouse. We also get fully protected land that future generations can enjoy.

Maybe one should get more upset at personal taxes or fuel costs. Backcountry fees are hardly the biggest issue affecting your bank account.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Smokies considering charging for backcountry camping on 08/17/2011 14:05:45 MDT Print View

I'de rather have a tiny amount of my income taxes go for parks.

It's too inefficient to collect entry fees. You have to pay the persons that collects the fees and enforces it. Some people will avoid paying which isn't fair.

We have this national treasure, people should be encouraged to go see it.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Two faced park sytem on 08/17/2011 14:41:07 MDT Print View

On one hand, everyone wants as many people to see and experience the wilderness as possible, so they will appreciate our resources and help protect it in the future.

With the other hand, Authorities want to keep people out the the woods so their job is easier and to keep impact in the forest down. they do this with increasing fees and bureaucracies.

Its clear that the NFS wants people to visit the parks -but would greatly prefer that you do it in your car, spend your money at the concession stands and leave. Many hikers also complain that the public doesn't "get it" and more kids need to get out and backpack and 5 min later will complain about seeing other people on the trail ruining their solitude and impacting backcountry sites.

I don't want to fund development in the parks AS Im against it. I think our park/wilderness SHOULD be free for the public- We oun it, we ALL pay our whole lives for it whether we ever go there or not and yet increasingly we are told if we actually want to go there we need to pay a fee as if were paying admition to an amusement park.
Something needs to change!

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Two faced park sytem on 08/17/2011 14:57:59 MDT Print View

One of the reasons that a national park charges entry fees is to moderate the visitor usage. Take Yosemite National Park as an example. They charge $20 per car for entry, and they still get millions of visitors per year. Just think what would happen if they made it free. The visitor count would get outrageous, which would lead to crowding and waiting, which would ruin the visitor experience. OTOH, if they charged $200 per car for entry, almost nobody would go. So, the entry fee was chosen with some thought. Wilderness permits are free, but reservations cost some bucks.

The National Forest Service is a completely different agency in a completely different branch of government, so they manage things a lot differently. Often NF land butts up against NP land, so the rules change on the border.


Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Two faced park sytem on 08/17/2011 15:04:43 MDT Print View

One thing about having a parkie collect the entry fee is that they also answer questions and give info to visitors, which frees up the visitor centers. So it does have a real point. Sure, most of us fly right through the gate - show that park pass and thanks, bye - but many visitors take the maps and handouts happily.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Two faced park sytem on 08/17/2011 15:17:42 MDT Print View

One of the interesting things is that the entry fees to the national parks go into the general fund of the United States, yet the salaries to pay the entry station staffers must be paid out of the Department of the Interior's budget for the National Park Service. Those are two different pockets. So, what is the motivation for a particular park to keep its entry stations staffed into the middle of the night? (just about none)


Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Re: Two faced park sytem on 08/17/2011 17:04:00 MDT Print View

This is interesting, it seems to me that there needs to be a paradigm shift.

- if fees are meant to keep people out and visitor numbers down- why charge a fee at all? why not simply restrict the numbers of visitors? why does money need be involved?

- seems that backcountry users are the least desirable visitors, using and impacting the NP and forest. Making us and our pass time the very opposite of how we like to view it. Seems the best way to appreciate our public land would be to not visit it. Or, perhaps day hiking would be a more responsible way than backpacking?

Seems strange that we all own the land and pay taxes to support it even if you never set foot on one and yet you are asked to pay a fine if you choose too. They need to make up their mind- if its going to be run as a private park by all means sell tickets and make a profit, but no more taxes should go to them. If we accept that its public then its hard in my option to justify the fees. If visitor numbers are destroying the parks - restrict the numbers,no need for fees. And I don't want to hear another word about getting people into backpacking or advertizing to the public to visit the parks!

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Two faced park sytem on 08/17/2011 17:10:42 MDT Print View

"why not simply restrict the numbers of visitors?"

You work up an equitable method of doing this, and then write a letter to your congressman. Or else, write the letter to the supervisor of your favorite national park. Either letter will get about the same results.

Now, some NPS people were recently trying to do something radical in one of the national parks, and they published their plan and asked for public comment by a certain date, all done by email. I gave them my comments. I think that somebody will actually read it and gather statistics.


Clint Wayman

Locale: East Tennessee, US
Open House Tomorrow! on 08/17/2011 21:01:18 MDT Print View

For anyone interested, there will be an Open House tomorrow, August 18, from 5:30 -7:30 at the park headquarters in Gatlinburg, TN. According to the park's website, there will be no formal presentation and the event is on a 'come-as-you-can' basis. I'll be there... probably after hiking several miles in the park =)


Great Smoky Mountains National Park Headquarters
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738


Open Houses to Discuss Proposed Backcountry Management Changes