Officials with the Great Smoky Mountains want to hear from backcountry campers and get their opinions about three proposals for new fees.
Thursday night, dozens of backcountry campers showed up in the Smokies to learn about the proposals which would charge them for their pastime.
As can be expected, there were mixed reviews on a new possible fee.
Clint Wayman has been an avid camper for the last several years. Thursday night, he came out to ask questions about proposed new fees. He is one hiker who is okay with paying a little to camp in the backcountry, "If it helps preserve what I love, I don't mind paying a little bit for it."
The park wants the fee to help create a better reservation system, hire rangers to patrol the backcountry, and better man the information office seven days a week.
"The main drive behind our proposal is an opportunity to update an antiquated system that we have used over the years," explained park spokesperson Nancy Gray.
The three proposed options are: A $10 reservation fee plus a $5 flat fee per person, or a $10 reservation fee and a $2.25 fee per person per day, or a $4 fee per person.
These prices don't sit well with backcountry camper John Quillen. "I think this is nothing but a tax on backcountry use," said Quillen.
He is used to camping in the backcountry for free, "Tax the horseback riders, tax the people who drive around the Cades Cove loop, but don't tax the people who go on foot who go out and clean up after the other people," stated Quillen.
Morgan Briggs has been camping in the Smoky Mountains since 1948. He hopes his letter makes it in the hands of decision makers.
"I don't want to cut it (camping) out all together, but i'll just cut back my trips to the Smokies," said Briggs.
The park promises to listen to everyone with an opinion. Day campers are not lumped in with these charges. That still remains free at the park.
Backcountry campers have until August 26th to voice their concerns.
Details of the proposal may be found at the Park's website.
Comments may be sent electronically at: GsmComments@nps.gov
Or they can be sent by mail to:
Superintendent, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738.