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  1. #1
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    Default GSMNP charging for backcountry camping in 2013

    This just came across my local news page - I couldn't decide if this was the right forum for this, but
    http://www.wbir.com/news/article/209...ackcountry-fee

    As a potential 2013 thruhiker, this definitely is concerning to me...hopefully where they mention thru-hikers in the article, they will do something reasonable.

  2. #2

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    Maybe charging a fee will help reduce the problem of people making reservations for shelters and never showing up. Quite often if your told the shelter is full, it probably isn't going to be.

    It would be nice if the money collected actually stays in the park, as is claimed. Unfortunately, that money has a way of going to Washington and being spent on anything but. That's what happened to the parking fees they collect at the NF trail head parking lots. Haven't seen any of that money spent on trails or improving services around here, as was the justification for the fees in the first place. The old bait and switch game they are so good at playing.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  3. #3
    First Sergeant SGT Rock's Avatar
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    Default GSMNP Backcountry Camping Fee Approved

    I just got this today thru the BMTA
    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 equestrians.

    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 principles.

    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.”

    “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 backcounry 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.

    Bob MillerManagement AssistantGreat Smoky Mountains National Park(865) 436-1207FAX 436-1204
    Last edited by SGT Rock; 03-07-2012 at 17:54. Reason: clarification
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  4. #4
    Registered User Deacon Richard's Avatar
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    Default What is the bottom line for AT thru hikers?

    Do At thru hikers still have the same priorities as before in shelters?
    Deacon Richard

  5. #5
    First Sergeant SGT Rock's Avatar
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    As far as I know they will. We won't know they nuts and bolts of the plan until sometime later. Hopefully they will have another open house or public comment period when they have a real plan, but until they get this software designed there is nothing to really say. At least they gave up trying to use www.recreation.gov because that system was totally unsuited for backpacking.
    SGT Rock
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  6. #6
    Registered User The Old Boot's Avatar
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    Our provincial parks have had a user fee for interior (backpacking/canoe) use for, well, forever! Fees vary by province and by park - Algonquin here in Ontario is $11.75 per night. British Columbia OTOH ranges from $5.00 to $10.00 for adults. $4.00 sounds like a bargain to me.

    One feature for the canoe camping sites is that they are reserved by lake/river and a certain percentage of the sites are always left free of reservation. For example, if a lake has 10 sites on it, a limit of 8 reservations are allowed for it. This way, particularly on larger more popular lakes (equate that to the AT if you will) there are always a couple of sites (think spaces in shelter) that are not spoken for.

    The park rangers are out there sporadically doing spot checks on whether you have permits and are tough about that aspect, you don't want to be caught without a permit altogether. BUT, if you're not on the right lake (think shelter) because of bad weather or other problems, they'll cut you some slack. There have been some problems reported where ill-mannered folks deliberately overstayed their permit or otherwise tried to circumvent the system but not many.

    Also, if the weather is bad, it's not unusual for the understanding campers to invite/rescue other trippers from the lake and double up on the use of a site.

    Since the plan applies to all of the parks' interior users and most of them are NOT thru AT hikers, and since the park is already cognizant of the difficulty in exact planning on the part of thru-hikers, I'd hazard a rational guess that they'll figure out somethign that will work in 99% of the time.

    And hey, they've already figured out that the income generated won't just go into the common kitty like it does here!!

  7. #7
    First Sergeant SGT Rock's Avatar
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    Local newspaper's article on this. It mostly says the same thing but includes comment by the ATC: http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/ma...oval-for-fees/
    SGT Rock
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  8. #8
    Stir Fry
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    I go to the Smokie 3 4 times a year and have no problem paying some to for what I use. I have hiked the At 3 times, always a problem getting reseravations at the shelters. but when I go they are almost never even close to full. Oh well maby once or twice.. But mostly not. So if the fees do no more then scare off the fair weather hikers it worth it.
    If it do'nt eat you or kill you it makes you stronger
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  9. #9

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    Just another reason to skip that portion of the trail. <deleted rant>
    Last edited by Sly; 03-08-2012 at 02:17. Reason: unnecessary politics

  10. #10
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by lush242000 View Post
    Just another reason to skip that portion of the trail.<deleted rant>
    oy vey!
    Last edited by Sly; 03-08-2012 at 02:18.

  11. #11
    First Sergeant SGT Rock's Avatar
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    I think the main objection to this is when we ran the numbers with the GSMNP people the program basically pays for people that make sure you pay. It doesn't leave anything else for maintenance or improvement. In fact it may not even cover all the expenses with that either, so we as taxpayers may also have to add more into the kitty to make sure this new fee program can make ends meet.
    SGT Rock
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  12. #12

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    Hmm..the math on this...over 9 million people visit the park each year. Mostly by driving through it. So instead of charging a $1 to enter the park by driving, they want to charge $4 a day for walking through it. Yep. That makes sense.

    Now I fully understand that the park system could use some extra cash and all. So let's look at it. First off you want me to fill out a permit to walk through a public space. Where else does this occur? It doesn't happen at the library or the post office. Then you tell me I have to camp in a designated location. Hmm. Look. I understand how this works. I have spent time in the Frank Church Wilderness where the man gives you your camp sites for the week. I get it. I just don't see the point in it. The AT is supposed to be about fellowship with wilderness and to get away from the modern world. It's not supposed to be about filling out a permit and paying a daily fee. But Whatever.

    Bottom Line. I disagree with charging backpackers a daily fee.

  13. #13

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    ]

    Oh this is getting fun now. I'm gonna go throw some popcorn in the microwave and open a beer.
    Last edited by Sly; 03-08-2012 at 02:22. Reason: deleted rant that was deleted. yeah, fun, popcorn is on me.

  14. #14
    First Sergeant SGT Rock's Avatar
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    You don't have to pay to walk in the backcountry. You only have to pay if you intend to camp in the backcountry. To a lot of us that is the same thing, but most people visiting the park do not camp in the backcountry so they can still visit the park for free.
    SGT Rock
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    I'm MORE than happy to put my money DIRECTLY into something I love and enjoy! I hike at the local SP and am HAPPY to pay that $2 fee - just for a day hike. I enjoy supporting the things I love...and if it means keeping the park open - I'm all for it. $4/day isn't asking much in my book.
    Last edited by Sly; 03-08-2012 at 02:27. Reason: edited the politics
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  16. #16
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    When I went thru in the Smokies I changed up my itinerary from my permit after the first night due to a storm. In fact every time I have hiked in the Smokies I have ended up with a slightly different than anticipated plan. Will this new fee system cause problems if I hike a longer or shorter day than I originally intended?

  17. #17
    Registered User ChinMusic's Avatar
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    I'm wondering what the protocol will be for thrus. Most would be guessing as to how many days they will be in the park. I'm wondering if there would be a set fee for thrus.
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  18. #18
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    Alright, simple questions but can get answered here by this bunch.

    How many miles of the A.T. is in the GSMNP?
    (This will help tell me how many nights stay.)

    Is it true that I must stay in a shelter or tent in reserved areas?
    (Or can I tent anywhere I pitch off the trail?)
    I would like to tent wherever so I need to know this.

    Thanks!

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Winds:1264518
    Alright, simple questions but can get answered here by this bunch.

    How many miles of the A.T. is in the GSMNP?
    (This will help tell me how many nights stay.)

    Is it true that I must stay in a shelter or tent in reserved areas?
    (Or can I tent anywhere I pitch off the trail?)
    I would like to tent wherever so I need to know this.

    Thanks!
    78 miles. Shelter required unless full and you started 50 miles before the smokies and are going 50 past the smokies. Honor system on the thru hiker part.

    My only problem with a $4 fee is that the government will figure out a way for it to cost $6 real cost to collect $4. I don't see how this helps anything.

  20. #20
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    Ra, thanks. So basically 8 nights (for us potentially slow folk) X 4 = $32.

    Ok then - how many miles of the A.T. is forced shelter use?
    Last edited by Winds; 03-08-2012 at 02:30.

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