KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Great Smoky Mountains National Park will hold a public meeting Thursday on a proposal that would implement new fees on visitors to combat rising costs of park operations and preservation.
The park has proposed new parking fees and a bump in daily rates for camping and cabin rentals. Officials say the park is in critical need of additional revenue to maintain upkeep as visitation has increased by 57% over the last decade to a record 14.1 million visits in 2021.
A virtual public meeting to discuss the proposed fee program changes will take place on Thursday, April 14 from 5 to 6 p.m. The meeting will include an overview presentation introducing the rate changes and a Question and Answer session.
Visitors may attend the meetings virtually by logging in at https://tinyurl.com/mttkdyxs. Participants are welcome to call in on listen only mode, and not view the presentation, by dialing (929) 436-2866 and entering passcode 980 8025 4376#.
The park would continue to be entrance fee-free under the proposal but would implement a paid parking tag system. The proposal includes a daily parking tag for $5, a parking tag for up to seven days for $15 and an annual parking tag for $40. The proposed plan would also eliminate unofficial roadside parking.
Fee increases for backcountry and frontcountry camping permits have also been proposed, in addition to a bump in fees for all family campsites. More details on the new proposed fees can be found here.
The park will continue to accept public comment on the parking tag program and fee increases through their online forum or through the mail until May 7.
Comments can be submitted online at parkplanning.nps.gov/GRSMfeeproposal2023 by selecting ‘open for comment’ from the left menu bar, opening the Proposed Smokies Fee Program Changes for 2023 folder and clicking on the green “Comment Now” button to access the online commenting form.
Written comment should be mailed to the park headquarters at:
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738.
They should be addressed to Superintendent Cassius Cash with Attn: 2023 Smokies Fee Program Changes Proposal.
“Great Smoky Mountains National Park is at a crossroads. We’re proud to be the most visited National Park, but it does present challenges due to wear and tear on aging facilities and a strain on park resources and employees. Parking tag sales, at a modest fee, would provide critically needed support to protect and enhance the visitor experience not just for tomorrow, but for generations to come. We appreciate the public’s input throughout this process.”– Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash