Smokies camping fee to take effect

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park plans to collect fees next year from backpackers despite the proposal receiving opposition from backcountry users and locals who enjoyed camping in the Smokies without the hassle of a fee system.

The money collected from the backcountry camping fees will fund a backcountry information desk, which previously has been understaffed. Dedicated backcountry rangers at the new information desk will be able to help backpackers and horse packers with trip-planning and reservation services. The fees will also increase ranger patrol I the backcountry.

About 230 written comments and two petitions were received during a public comment period last summer. Swain County commissioners passed a resolution opposing the new fees.

The park said it decided to focus its plans around the lowest and simplest of the fees under study: $4 per night per person, adding that 100 percent of the revenue 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.

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