cartoon compliments Kitty Benzar, Western Slope No Fee Coalition

Today is more of an update on recent events.  I was not able to join Sally D and the Highlander crew at Walnut Bottoms because of the stomach flu.  It has been a rough weekend.  I'm certain they had an exemplary time.

I wanted to share the following article which came out in the Knoxville News Sentinel today.

 Avid Smokies hiker seeks access to comments collected over park backcountry fee » Knoxville News Sentinel 

Morgan Simmons is the only journalist in East Tennessee who has the guts to cover controversial issues in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  An example is what happened when I filed the Freedom of Information Act Request and my lawyer forwarded it to several media outlets. I was contacted by another very interested and prominent local journalist.  We corresponded several times.  He told me he wanted to do a television piece but just had to run it by his news director.  Then crickets.  I have always had the suspicion that most local media would rather paint Smokies administration as doing no wrong.  I have known people in the local media who have cozy relationships with park officials that I often felt was inappropriate.

After Morgan interviewed me on Wednesday, I was contacted by the moderator of GoSmokies on Friday where I have a blog to discuss the Backcountry Tax. Our blog is the most visited on the GoSmokies website with almost 9000 page views and far and away more comments than most other blogs combined.  I was asked to disable comments on the blog because the "rants" were becoming "contentious".  It was strange in the timing.  The tone of my blog has remained consistent since it's inception in August.  I have a feeling that when Morgan contacted Bob Miller, there may have been some pressure put on the GoSmokies moderator to silence the blog.  I cannot prove this, but the timing is suspect.

If you read the tone of Bob Miller's statement, he is quite defensive about the comments.  The NPS has no intention of incorporating the comments and is now stuck with egg on their face.  I sincerely appreciate the assistance of everyone in this effort.  Myers Morton is the attorney who filed my FOIA fee waiver appeal.  If you are reading this, consider emailing the article to David Vela, Dale Ditmanson's boss or any other legislator you deem appropriate.  The more we spread the word, the more it could die a slow death.