Camping fee increase

Fees for frontcountry campgrounds and picnic pavilions in the Smokies will increase beginning March 1.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is increasing fees at frontcountry campgrounds and picnic pavilions starting March 1.

The increase, which ranges from 10 to 15 percent, has been determined over the past year, after examining public comments, operating costs and projected budget levels, Park officials said in a release Tuesday.

“Park visitors have long enjoyed camping and picnicking across the Park in spectacular settings that offer space for relaxation and renewal,” Superintendent Cassius Cash said.

“Maintaining and servicing these facilities in the mountains presents a unique set of challenges and, with increasing costs, these fee increases are necessary to ensure the continual care and operation of these special places.”

The increased fees also will be used on “a backlog of maintenance requirements on Park facilities.”

In addition, the Park is adding three campgrounds, Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain and Big Creek, to the national reservation system through recreation.gov. This move is made in hopes of improving efficiency. Starting in March 2018, all sites will require registration ahead of time, including payment, prior to arrival in the park. You will be able to do this through recreation.gov online or by phone.

The Park has not increased fees since 2006, apart from the Cataloochee Campground, which was increased in 2011. All camping and pavilion fees are retained by the Park. The fees go toward “maintaining buildings, grounds, utilities and providing visitor services,” according to the release.

According to a 2016 comparability study performed by the Park, the campgrounds remain the least expensive in the area, even with the increase.

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