Federal judge rules in favor of Smoky Mountain fee - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Federal judge rules in favor of Smoky Mountain fee

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Traffic climbs U.S 441 toward Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo by J. Miles Cary/News Sentinel Traffic climbs U.S 441 toward Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo by J. Miles Cary/News Sentinel

KNOXVILLE, TN (AP) - A federal judge has ruled in favor of a backcountry camping fee at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The park began mandating use of an online reservation system and charging a $4 per person, per night fee for use of more than 80 backcountry campsites and 15 trail shelters in 2013. Before then, only a few of the most used backcountry sites needed reservations and there was no fee.

A group called Southern Forest Watch filed suit saying the fee was illegal under federal laws and public opposition wasn't adequately considered.

The Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1Ggjs0K) reports U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips ruled the fee is legal and that the park didn't make the decision arbitrarily.

Southern Forest Watch President John Quillen said the group will likely appeal.

Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com

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