National Park Managers Consider Backcountry Camping Changes
Contact: Public Affairs Office, (865) 436-1207
Managers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park are considering some changes in the process by which backpackers make reservations for overnight camping at the Park’s nearly 100 backcountry sites and shelters. The proposed changes, which would update the reservation procedure as well as increasing Ranger presence on the Park’s 800 miles of trails, would be covered by a minimal user fee. No fees are being contemplated for day hiking.
In response to these concerns, managers are evaluating the implementation of a computerized reservation system which would take reservations both online and via a call center for all its backcountry sites 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The reservations would be made by a contractor at: www.recreation.gov which is the site currently used to book frontcountry campsites. The Park would also expand the operations of the Backcountry Information Center to provide quality trip planning advice to help users develop a customized itinerary that best fits their available time and ability.
Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson said, “We feel that the proposed changes offer better customer service to backpackers, as well as reducing impacts to Park resources In order to implement these changes we are considering several fee structures that would cover both the reservation contractor’s fee and the cost of field Rangers and staff at the Backcountry Information Center.”
Comments may be emailed or mailed to: Superintendent, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738. Informational open houses are scheduled for Tuesday, August 16 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Old Oconaluftee Visitor Center at 1194 Newfound Gap Road in Cherokee, and Thursday, August 18 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Park Headquarters Lobby at 107 Headquarters Road in Gatlinburg. Comments should be submitted by August 26.