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June 2019

It seems the New Year just started and already I'm thinking about next year’s board of directors. In accordance with the GeorgiaAppalachian Trail Club’s by-laws, a nominating committee has been appointed and they will present a slate of 2020 officers in the September issue of the Georgia Mountaineer.

As a club we have lots of “moving parts.” We need members to participate in various ways, so no one has to carry too heavy a load. In order to continue as such a strong club, we need to engage more members in our activities. This includes getting members involved with committees and leading up to serving on the board.

John Turner has agreed to chair this year’s nominating committee and will lead a group to identify and fill vacancies on the board for next year.

Entrance Fee at Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

With ever increasing visitation to our national parks, many have instituted an entrance fee. This is necessary due to decreased budgets from the federal government. It also appears that these fees have not reduced visitation. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM) has annual visitation of 11.4 million visitors a year, making it the most visited national park in the country, with the Grand Canyon National Park with 4.6 million and Yosemite with 3.6 million in second and third.

The economic impact of the park on the surrounding area could exceed $900 million annually. The park has an annual budget approaching $20 million and that could easily
double with fees.The reason there are no entrance fees at GRSM is because of Newfound Gap Road (US411). This highway connects the towns of Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Cherokee, North Carolina. Originally this road was built by the states of Tennessee and North Carolina. Additionally, the park was assembled from private and public lands.

As the federal government was procuring ownership of the park, the state of North Carolina turned over their deeds. The state of Tennessee negotiated a deal that “no toll or license fee shall ever be imposed…” to travel Newfound Gap Road.

If there was ever going to be an entrance fee, it would require legislation from the state of Tennessee. I have no sense if that could ever happen. I can’t believe it would
negatively affect visitation to the areas and the park. A family visiting one of the resort towns will incur expenses such that an entrance fee would not be significant.Also, visitors may feel they are making a significant contribution to the park.

For many of us, the Smokies are our closest and most frequently visited national park. For those of us with senior passes, entrance fees are a non-issue, and I think fees would be very helpful as long as the funds raised stayed in the park.

Hiking Trails for America

I have recently become aware of a new organization, Hiking Trails for America, to help connect the National Scenic Trails in America. This is the latest effort of Jim Kern who
founded (or cofounded) the Florida Trail Association, American Hiking Society, Big City Mountaineers etc. The following is their mission statement.

America has 11 National Scenic Trails, but after 60 years only the Appalachian National Scenic Trail has a right-of-way set aside for posterity. The other 10 trails have gaps subject to closure and dangerous road-walks. Many have access problems. Hiking Trails for America (HTA) has been formed to support permanent protection and continuity for all National Scenic Trails and to educate the general public in the use of foot trails for walking, hiking and backpacking. For more information and to sign a petition visit www.hikingtrailsforamerica.org.

It seems that summer is rapidly descending on us; was there much of a spring? The “green tunnel” is now in pl hikes. See y’all on the trail.