Blue Ridge Parkway seeking public input regarding changes to camping fees

WATAUGA COUNTY, N.C. — The National Park Service is asking for community input regarding proposed fee changes on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Those proposed rates include front-country and backcountry camping site fees, as well as non-camper user fees for shower and dump-station services.

The parkway is considered a popular camping destination for park visitors and neighbors, and recreation fees provide a vital source of revenue for needed facility maintenance, future campground improvement projects, and the increased costs associated with campground operations.

The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act requires that recreational fees be appropriate to the benefits and services provided. Fees charged by the National Park Service must be comparable to fees charged by others in the local area for similar benefits and services.

The cost right now to camp here is $20 a night.

The National Park Service is proposing a $30 fee at their campgrounds as early as this spring.

David Wilfong fishes along the Linville River in Avery County.

One of his favorite spots is feet from the Linville Falls campground, which has thousands of visitors each year.

“It’s almost expected really because of everything else is going up of course,” Wilfong said. “And it’s really reasonable right now.”

Elizabeth Carroll and her husband, who are from Florida, believe it’s important for the park service to explain where the extra money will go.

“Fifty percent will make a big difference,” Elizabeth Carroll said. “A gradual incline and maybe a better explanation as to why these rates need to come up.”

Kathy Inscoe, of Statesville, doesn’t think the price increase is too much.

“Not for camping,” she said. “It’s too beautiful up here. Everybody would want to pay that.”

City leaders said the last major fee rate change on the Parkway occurred in 2016. After researching local campground rates and providing services outside the park, the proposed rate increases were found to be comparable with current market rates in the surrounding areas for similar services.

The public will be allowed to provide comments on the proposed fee increases from Feb. 15 until March 15.

Following public engagement and National Park Service approval, the new fees could be implemented as soon as May 2024.

VIDEO: Snow falls along Blue Ridge Parkway