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  1. #1
    Registered User P-Train's Avatar
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    Default GSMNP Thinking of Charging for Back Country Camping. $5 per day Per Person Per Hike?

    http://www.wbir.com/news/article/177...ry-camping-fee

    Not completely opposed to it but it's always been free here. I think I buy enough GSMNP maps, coffee cups and bumper stickers...

    I'm all for giving where it counts but...

    PROPOSAL ADDED
    Backcountry Office & Permit System Restructuring Proposal
    July 25, 2011

    Introduction
    Park management is considering a proposal to improve visitor services by restructuring the park’s backcountry reservations and permitting processes as well as assisted backcountry
    trip planning services. The purpose of
    this document is to brief park partners, cooperators and stakeholder representatives and to solicit feedback on this proposal.

    Background and Scope of Problem
    • The park consistently receives complaints about the amount of time and effort it takes for visitors to get a backcountry reservation and/or acquire backcountry planning information. This is a reflection of
    insufficient staffing for the volume of customers, both call-in and walk-in, requiring reservations and/or trip planning information.
    • The park also frequently receives feedback from the public that they desire to see more Rangers in the backcountry to address problems such as dogs on trails, and permit and camping violations. This includes
    overcrowding of backcountry campsites by non-permitted campers. A greater National Park Service presence is also desired in the Backcountry Information Office to provide trip planning services.
    • Non-reserved sites currently comprise over half the park’s backcountry campsite inventory. Because they are non-reserved, capacities are frequently exceeded, which results in food storage violations, increased wildlife encounters and the need to close campsites to protect visitors and wildlife. When the park needs to close one of these sites, staff must rely on closure signs at permit stations and at the sites themselves to notify
    campers, but this is not a reliable method of notification. A reliable system of notification is vitally important when closures are due to bears or other safety reasons.

    Proposed Solution and Outcomes
    • Contract with Recreation.gov, an online and call-in reservation service, to which customers will have 24/7 access and can print their backcountry permit prior to arriving in the park. Recreation.gov is the official
    centralized reservation service used by all U.S. Department of Interior and U.S. Forest Service recreational areas offering camping reservation services. These options will reduce the number of reservation calls to the
    Backcountry Information Office and allow staff to spend more time assisting customers with high-quality trip planning services, both walk-in and by phone. Although park research suggests that 80% of reservations will likely be made online and almost 20% by phone, there will also be an opportunity for customers to obtain reservations or permits on a walk-in basis at the Backcountry Information Office and potentially at one or two other select
    visitor contact stations in the park.

    The reservation system will dramatically increase reservation/permit customer service and ensure customers have greatly improved access to high-quality trip planning information, both through personal contacts and
    improved on-line planning tools. Customers will be able to make reservations and obtain permits at their convenience.

    • Create a cost recovery fee structure for reservations that will generate revenue to cover both the contractor cost of the reservation system and support an increased National Park Service presence in the
    Backcountry Information Office and in the park’s backcountry.

    Although Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been offering free backcountry permits for years, the park is in the minority when compared to other parks with comparable backcountry operations. Most other parks with similar backcountry operations charge between $10 and $30 per reservation, and many have additional per person or per person, per night fees. Parks use these fees in support of their backcountry operations programs
    and, in turn, offer improved services to the public. Similarly, beyond providing access to a more convenient reservation/permitting service, Great Smoky Mountains National Park proposes using these fees to increase ranger presence in the backcountry and improve customer access to trip planning services through the Backcountry Information Office.

    Alternative fee structures that would allow the park to meet these objectives include:
    • $10 per reservation + $5 per person; or,
    • $10 per reservation + $2.25 per person per night; or,
    • $4 per person per night.

    • Require reservations for all backcountry sites. The reservation system will have the capability of notifying reservations holders of site closures, safety issues, or emergency information via phone calls, text
    messages or emails.

    The park will be aware of, and have contact information for, users at each site. The park will be able to reliably contact each reservation holder with timely information about closures, safety issues and other important backcountry information.

    By placing all sites on the reservation system and having an increased ranger presence in the backcountry, negative impacts to both the natural environment and to the visitor experience from overcrowding and other conflicts will be reduced.

    Conclusion
    Implementation of this proposal will result in an improvement to customer service that will make obtaining backcountry reservations quick, easy and convenient for customers, as well as increase their access to Backcountry
    Information Office personnel for trip planning. Additional Rangers in the park’s backcountry will improve visitor experience by actively addressing commonly reported backcountry camper concerns.

    Additional Information & Comments
    • Written comments regarding this proposal may be addressed to the Park Superintendent by August 26th. Comments may be submitted via email to
    grsmcomments@nps.gov or by mail to Great Smoky Mountains
    National Park, 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, Tennessee 37738.
    • The park will also hold two informational open houses regarding this proposal to which partners, cooperators, stakeholder representatives and the general public are invited.
    • Tuesday, August 16: Old Oconoluftee Visitor Center 5:30 – 7:30 pm.
    • Thursday, August 18: Headquarters Lobby 5:30 – 7:30 pm.
    Last edited by Alligator; 08-02-2011 at 20:26. Reason: Added proposal

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by P-Train View Post
    http://www.wbir.com/news/article/177...ry-camping-fee

    Not completely opposed to it but it's always been free here. I think I buy enough GSMNP maps, coffee cups and bumper stickers...

    I'm all for giving where it counts but...
    Will that apply to thrus?

  3. #3
    Registered User wisenber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by P-Train View Post
    http://www.wbir.com/news/article/177...ry-camping-fee

    Not completely opposed to it but it's always been free here. I think I buy enough GSMNP maps, coffee cups and bumper stickers...

    I'm all for giving where it counts but...
    They want to move registration from phone and the self-serve kiosks to recreation.gov.
    My experience with recreation.gov is that it does not allow reservations within 72 hours of arrival.
    Most of my overnight visits there tend to be last minute when I find out that I can take enough time off from work. I guess those days are over.

  4. #4
    Registered User P-Train's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trailbender View Post
    Will that apply to thrus?
    There will be a lot of Q+A meetings before anything changes if it does at all.

  5. #5
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    Yeah, this is all still talk. I did a quick search to see if they had a questionnaire on any websites -- per the article ""The Great Smoky Mountains National Park plans to take public input online and at public meetings." But I didn't find anything. http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisi...servations.htm
    "The aim of science is to make difficult things understandable in a simpler way; the aim of poetry is to state simple things in an incomprehensible way. The two are incompatible."
    -- Paul Dirac

  6. #6
    Registered User Carl in FL's Avatar
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    Mixed feelings here. Pay for use is a fair way to distribute the expenses of
    maintaining a national park, but then my tax dollars are supposed to be
    already at work here doing that. The Libertarian in me says no, the Pragmatic
    says yes. It will depend of what the $5 covers.

  7. #7
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    One of the difficulties that GSMNP has in obtaining revenue is that it can not charge entrance fees like almost every other large national park:

    The reasons for free entry to the national park date back at least to the 1930s. The land that is today Great Smoky Mountains National Park was once privately owned. The states of Tennessee and North Carolina, as well as local communities, paid to construct Newfound Gap Road (US-441). When the state of Tennessee transferred ownership of Newfound Gap Road to the federal government in 1936, it stipulated that “no toll or license fee shall ever be imposed…” to travel the road.

    At that time, Newfound Gap Road was one of the major routes crossing the southern Appalachian Mountains. It’s likely the state was concerned with maintaining free, easy interstate transportation for its citizens. North Carolina transferred its roads through abandonment, so no restrictions were imposed.

    Action by the Tennessee legislature would be required to lift this deed restriction if Great Smoky Mountains National Park ever wished to charge an entrance fee.
    http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/whyfree.htm

    Knowing the political climate of Tennessee, I doubt that will change in the near future.
    The trouble I have with campfires are the folks that carry a bottle in one hand and a Bible in the other.
    You never know which one is talking.

  8. #8

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    Wow $5, who gives a damn?
    I just hope the registration system doesn't get any more difficult than it is now. I like the self registration for the sites that aren't rationed.

  9. #9

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    I have mixed feelings too. I like that the fees would reduce park visitation which is much too high currently, but I fear it would push many of the hikers into the nearby Cherokee Nat'l Forest. I like the quiet and remoteness of the CNF. There are many trails where you could hike for days and not see another soul.


    Ryan

  10. #10
    Trail miscreant Bearpaw's Avatar
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    It's an outrageous proposition.

    The motorists who create the demand for the massive majority of park staff and facilities will still swell and park and pay nothing.

    Where will these "improvements" occur. It seems unlikely it will be for backcountry development or new campsites. More likely, it will either be spent on frontcountry improvements or more staff to administer and enforce the permit system, thereby negating any benefit to those actually paying.

    Worse still, some talks include farming the responsibility out to private contractors, meaning the money will go directly to their profits. Ultimately, the likelihood of the permit money supporting hikers' interests seems slim to none.

    Absolutely, positively no is the best I can give.

    Unfortunately, backcountry hikers and campers are a small enough portion of the GSMNP visitor population that this will likely be pushed through with little opposition, so long as the free entrance clause is still honored.

    Just remember, if you say "I'd be fine with it," you could save the trouble and simply put donation money into the many locked boxes at most parking areas to support the park. Don't put an extra tax on those who put the least strain on the park.
    If people spent less time being offended and more time actually living, we'd all be a whole lot happier!

  11. #11
    walkin' in 2k12 humunuku's Avatar
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    i was just at the backcountry office today and they said changes are going to happen. They are concerned with trash at campsites and registration issues. They want to have backcountry rangers to check permits at the shelters/campsites. They said thru-hikers may have to make reservations and pay at the NOC. maybe the end of tent camping at the shelters for thruhikers. nothing is set in stone yet. there are two public meetings in august. I suggested making a fee for driving the cades cove loop and use that money for backcountry improvements.

  12. #12

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by humunuku View Post
    They want to have backcountry rangers to check permits at the shelters/campsites.
    They better charge more than $5 if they want to pay for that.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by humunuku View Post

    An excerpt from the above link:

    The park also frequently receives feedback from the public that they desire to see more
    rangers in the backcountry to address problems such as dogs on trails, and permit and
    camping violations. This includes overcrowding of backcountry campsites by nonpermitted
    campers. A greater National Park Service presence is also desired in the
    Backcountry Information Office to provide trip planning services.

    Really Who the hell are these people

    And you're right, they will need more than $5 for that, not to mention all the other things they say they need the money for.
    "The aim of science is to make difficult things understandable in a simpler way; the aim of poetry is to state simple things in an incomprehensible way. The two are incompatible."
    -- Paul Dirac

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by john gault View Post

    And you're right, they will need more than $5 for that, not to mention all the other things they say they need the money for.
    12 x $5 x 13 = $780 and that's on the AT and doesn't count all the other backcountry sites.

  16. #16

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    absolutlely for it!!! as a backcountry user I would love it if the casual backpacker who is IMO most likely to rubbish up the place finds the $5 too high a price to pay

  17. #17
    Trail miscreant Bearpaw's Avatar
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    The proposal is for an upfront $10 reservation fee, then $4-5 dollars per day.

    And none of it will go to benefit hikers. It will go to staff to enforce to enforce the already convoluted permit system and "other park projects".

    This is a losing proposition for hikers.
    If people spent less time being offended and more time actually living, we'd all be a whole lot happier!

  18. #18
    Registered User Lyle's Avatar
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    Glad I've already hiked it. No need to return.

  19. #19
    Registered User wisenber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aaronthebugbuffet View Post
    Wow $5, who gives a damn?
    I just hope the registration system doesn't get any more difficult than it is now. I like the self registration for the sites that aren't rationed.
    One problem is that the park wishes to move ALL registration to reservation.gov which does not allow reservations within 72 hours of your visit. I'm local and 3/4's of my stays there involve finding out at the last minute that I'm free for a couple of days from work. Currently, I can go and self-register for any of the non-reserved sites at any of the 15 kiosks. If reservations are moved to reservations.gov, those trips would no longer be possible as I could not get a reservation before my time off from work was over.
    It may seem small to those living far enough away to need to plan for time to visit there, but for the locals (many of whom moved here to have such access) last minute trips to the park are a mainstay.

  20. #20
    Registered User wisenber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lyle View Post
    Glad I've already hiked it. No need to return.
    Aside from the 70ish miles of AT, there are another 800+ miles of trails here.

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