Cherokee National Forest considering recreational fee increases

John Thompson • May 8, 2019 at 7:18 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Picnickers, campers and boaters may see an increase in user fees at Cherokee National Forest recreation facilities. The Forest Service is  taking public comments about the proposed fee increases.

The Carter County mayor’s office received a letter on May 2 to inform the public that the fee increase was being considered.

The letter from District Ranger Keith Kelly of the Watauga Ranger District said the Forest Service is considering fee increases in Carter County. Those include increases to $5 per vehicle at boat launches on Watauga Lake at Little Milligan and Rat Branch. Boat launches will be free with the Forest Service’s annual pass. 

The Shook Branch Recreation Area on Watauga Lake is also being considered for a fee increase to $5 per vehicle. Admittance here would also be free with the annual pass.

Fees would be increased at two campgrounds. Cardens Bluff Campground would increase to $20 per night and Dennis Cove would increase to $15 per night.

The annual pass will cost be $50 per year.

Kelly wrote that “these fee changes will help us maintain our sites and trails at the level and quality our visitors have come to expect, especially at a time when we are experiencing increases in recreation use and operating costs. Under the 2004 Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, 95 percent of fees collected at recreation sites may be used locally to operate, maintain and improve these sites, so fee increases will translate directly to improved facilities and trails across the forest. Proposed fee changes will also move us closer to fee levels charged by other nearby public and private campgrounds and recreation providers.”

Other National Forests in the Southern Region are also preparing for fee increases in the 2020 season. Some of the Cherokee National Forest’s sites have not had a fee increase since 2000.

The Cherokee National Forest is accepting public comments on the proposed fee change. The deadline for submitting a comment is June 3. For more information or to submit comments, contact Jesse English, forest recreation program manager, at 476-9748 or [email protected]

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