Smokies backcountry fee taken to court
A lawsuit has been filed over a new backcountry camping fee imposed in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.Southern Forest Watch claims the backcountry camping fee was “rejected by public sentiment, improperly vetted and imposed upon citizens without their consent.”
Backcountry camping has historically been free in the Smokies. The park this year implemented a $4 per person per night fee.
The Swain County commissioners unanimously passed a resolution last week in support of the lawsuit. The resolution cited the historical ties many Swain County people have to the land that is now the Smokies, including the remains of family homesteads and cemeteries still located on national park lands.
“Many Swain County residents use the backcountry campsites to visit the cemeteries where their ancestors are buried, to explore the home places that their ancestors occupied and to enjoy simple outdoor recreation,” the resolution states. “The imposition of the backcountry camping fee and reservation system may hinder the use of the backcountry campsites by Swain County families who engage in backcountry camping to strengthen familial bonds, reflect on the history and culture of their ancestors, fish and enjoy nature.”
The resolution also noted the economic importance of park visitation to Swain County.
Southern Forest Watch formed expressly to fight the fee, fearing it could lead to a slippery slope for an entrance fee for the national park.