Petition To Change Back To Pre-Covid Walk-in Permit System

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Re: Petition To Change Back To Pre-Covid Walk-in Permit System

Post by Lumbergh21 » Tue Feb 16, 2021 9:02 pm

SSSdave wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 5:14 pm
Signed as is. Proposal is a key improvement however still allows the system to be manipulated by those inputting multiple reservations, few of which they actually expect to use. Knowing that they could be penalized if they do not at a minimum phone in to say their trip will occur instead of just ignoring any cancellation input, they may just phone in after 14 days each time and still have dozens of dates tied up for the trivial total recreation dot gov fee cost of a single night of pre-trip lodging in many tourist areas.

In order to fix that, a handshake is necessary indicating they were truly in the region near their trailhead within a few days of their hike. The way to do that would be to require physically putting a signed copy of the wilderness permit they received via email and printed out at home, into a ranger station night box near the date of their trip. Many of us have been using night boxes for years and going out of the way to do so during travel is always trivial.
I think that this is a really good idea for handling reservations that are neither canceled nor used. Though medium term (I guess), I would like a return to true walk-in permits not just permits that are reservable 2 weeks before the start of the trip versus 6 months before the start. I agree that unlike the old requirement to pick up your permit after waiting in line then getting the Q&A session with a ranger, stopping by a ranger station at any time on the day off or day before the start of your hike and dropping off a copy/receipt of some sort would be quick and easy.








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Re: Petition To Change Back To Pre-Covid Walk-in Permit System

Post by Lumbergh21 » Tue Feb 16, 2021 9:13 pm

BESON wrote:
Sun Feb 14, 2021 9:13 pm
wildhiker wrote:
Sun Feb 14, 2021 12:19 am
GriffHiker wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 2:51 pm
What would be the downside of keeping it online, but have the permits released the day before instead of two weeks out?
There is an equity issue with any permit system that is entirely online. It freezes out those on the "wrong side" of the digital divide: poor folks who don't have computers or smart phones (yes, such people exist) and a larger number of people with unreliable internet connections or skills. The fact that recreation.gov has a telephone option doesn't really solve this inequity when permits disappear within a few minutes. You can't complete a telephone transaction that fast (assuming you can even get through to an operator).

-Phil
Thanks for brining this perspective. I suppose I'd wonder, though, whether the current/old system might conversely advantage people who live close enough to the ranger stations that issue permits and can easily get to one 24 hours before the desired entry. Living in Fresno, that's been easy for me to do for an outing in Sierra NF with the Clovis HQ being so close. But someone living further away (e.g., in the Bay Area or LA) might have a harder time getting the permit 24 hours early as I can without also needing to extend their trip. Perhaps an online reservation system might take away an advantage of living close to a permit issuing station. But Phil's point certainly remains - an exclusively online system depends on being on a certain side of the digital divide. I wonder whether there'd be a way to accommodate both ways of making "walk-in" reservations - hold all of the walk in quota until 24 hours prior to entry date and allowing those to be issued via recreation.gov whether at home on one's computer or in person with the assistance of a person at the station desk who could complete the transaction for the person. That probably gets too complicated, though.
I'm quite a long drive from a trailhead, far northern California, so you could be refering to someone like me. That's what the 6- month reservation is for, IMO. That's one reason that I'm happy other permit issuing agencies are finally moving away from faxes to internet reservations. The one time I entered through SEKI, I hated not knowing if there were even any available permits left for the trailhead I was applying for and then I didn't know if they even got my application until a couple of weeks later when I was notified it had been approved. So, in the meantime, I booked a back up permit entering at Bishop. I didn't see that I had any choice, as even 5 years ago, the Bishop Pass trailhead was pretty popular.

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Re: Petition To Change Back To Pre-Covid Walk-in Permit System

Post by BESON » Tue Feb 16, 2021 9:18 pm

maverick wrote:
Tue Feb 16, 2021 6:02 pm
Will now be addressing this petition to the Regional Forester Randy Moore only.

SEKI and Yosemite still seem to have their "walk-in" permits available:

I have someone getting clarification for us about Yosemite, just to make sure.

The National Forests are the issue, and it seems that there is no consensus between them on how they will implement the "walk-in" permits.

Covid should not be used as reason not to have "walk-in" permits issued at a wilderness office or temp kiosk, these permit stations get nothing near the traffic that a grocery checkout clerk gets daily at a Safeway or Costco.
Thanks for this clarification and for bringing all this to our attention. As best I could tell, it seemed like SEKI and Yosemite are intending to operate as normal. I was less clear about Sierra NF based on what the website says.

Personally, I think I'd find an online based reservation system a convenient addition (though not replacement for!) to in person stuff. But I'd really hope to see retaining the existing walk-in parameters where a certain percent is held until 24 hours prior to the desired entry.
Brian

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Re: Petition To Change Back To Pre-Covid Walk-in Permit System

Post by Lumbergh21 » Tue Feb 16, 2021 9:37 pm

Signed and tried posting it to the JMT Facebook page. Good chance it will get blocked/taken down, but we'll see. I'll also try a couple of other backpacking groups on Facebook that I'm a member of.

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Re: Petition To Change Back To Pre-Covid Walk-in Permit System

Post by caddis » Wed Feb 17, 2021 6:42 am

michaelzim wrote:
Sun Feb 14, 2021 9:24 am
* With regard to having a decent quota of true “W” walk in permits, please see "By the numbers" post in other thread on this = "Wilderness Permits via recreation.gov 2021"

Here are my reasons for NOT waiting to book a permit until close to planned trip time.
To me these are all common sense in order to stack the odds in favour of a safe and rewarding trip into the wilderness:

- Is the Kaiser Pass even open if planning to go out of Edison or Florence?

- What are the (potentially dangerous) snow depths/conditions like for planned areas of the trip?

- What is the near term 3 to 5 day weather forecast? Clearly a huge planning variable for trip safety and success.

- What are the mosquito levels like and at what elevations? Another clearly deciding factor for trip success. Not truly knowable until last minute reports.

- What are the fire and smoke conditions? Yet another clear deciding factor for deciding where to go and if to go. No way this one can be figured out until near the last minute given the new reality from c. late July onwards.

...
This is the most convincing post I have read. In addition, not everyone has a life/work schedule that allows them to make specific plans 6 months in advance.

I'd love to see them return to the before-corona-virus-from-China walk-in permit system AND also maintain the current system of emailing the reserved permits so those that have planned ahead so they can actually begin their hike at a reasonable time. (Picking up a permit can sometimes waste half a day of hiking time)
Last edited by caddis on Thu Feb 18, 2021 2:29 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Petition To Change Back To Pre-Covid Walk-in Permit System

Post by chulavista » Wed Feb 17, 2021 12:51 pm

This is a waste of time. Getting hourly labor is a nightmare now, even for the feds and especially for seasonal labor. They will not care about us being inconvenienced.

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Re: Petition To Change Back To Pre-Covid Walk-in Permit System

Post by maverick » Wed Feb 17, 2021 3:02 pm

This is a waste of time. Getting hourly labor is a nightmare now, even for the feds and especially for seasonal labor. They will not care about us being inconvenienced.
Don't be so sure. Yosemite and SEKI will be open of walk-in's because they want to make up for some of the lost revenue, the National Forest's will loose a lot of money with people being unable to secure permits online and no regular walk-in's available. Also, some folks will go without securing permits, and then be permanently out of the system.

Money talks, whether government or civilian.
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org

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Re: Petition To Change Back To Pre-Covid Walk-in Permit System

Post by chulavista » Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:38 pm

Yosemite operating budget ~$29 million. Wilderness visitors ~50,000. Let's guess 45,000 are in reservation season. Subtract 8,000 for the PCT mooches. Maybe another 5,000 for nobo JMT mooches. That leaves 32k people with reservations. Maybe the average group size is 3? So 10600 permits @ $5 res fee get us $53k. Then $5 per person gets us $160,000.

So we are talking $210k in a $29 million budget...

Then we take into account the number of rangers it takes to staff a permit station. Let's say a ranger gets $15/hr plus benefits and payroll taxes to get us to $20/hr. That's probably underestimating costs. So we staff, let's say for this argument we staff four stations with only one person for 180 days at 8 hr/day at $20/hr. $115k that can get cut in half for sure if they only have two people write permits from one location all the time and they don't have to talk to people.

You were saying something about how money talks?

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Re: Petition To Change Back To Pre-Covid Walk-in Permit System

Post by yosehiker » Wed Feb 17, 2021 10:41 pm

I find it deeply ironic that some are advocating for a system that is more 'equitable' that requires a person to drive multiple hours and be physically present for non-guaranteed outcome over something than can be done at home, at work or even in line at the grocery store. Sure, there are some winners and losers in any system, but does this board honestly suddenly care that much about people who don't have internet access? Overall, the online system gives a greater opportunity to more people. Call a spade a spade and say what you really want. You want to go back to the previous system that was more challenging and was a barrier to entry for hikers not as familiar with the Sierra and the permit system, so that walk up permit use is lower.

I think we saw that in the increased use and why it was harder to get a permit. If something is easy to do, more people will do it and more people did last year (Plus with the general increase of use and the COVID pandemic encouraging people to do outdoor activities). Then there were the unfounded claims of bots and people making multiple reservations though oddly it was only for the walk up permits, not the advanced reservations or other reservations or something we haven't heard of for years. A case of Occam's razor.

The big problems I see are the 2 week out window rather than the day before and how unused permits are reissued (or not).

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Re: Petition To Change Back To Pre-Covid Walk-in Permit System

Post by wildhiker » Thu Feb 18, 2021 1:28 am

yosehiker wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 10:41 pm
I find it deeply ironic that some are advocating for a system that is more 'equitable' that requires a person to drive multiple hours and be physically present for non-guaranteed outcome over something than can be done at home, at work or even in line at the grocery store. Sure, there are some winners and losers in any system, but does this board honestly suddenly care that much about people who don't have internet access? Overall, the online system gives a greater opportunity to more people. Call a spade a spade and say what you really want. You want to go back to the previous system that was more challenging and was a barrier to entry for hikers not as familiar with the Sierra and the permit system, so that walk up permit use is lower.

I think we saw that in the increased use and why it was harder to get a permit. If something is easy to do, more people will do it and more people did last year (Plus with the general increase of use and the COVID pandemic encouraging people to do outdoor activities). Then there were the unfounded claims of bots and people making multiple reservations though oddly it was only for the walk up permits, not the advanced reservations or other reservations or something we haven't heard of for years. A case of Occam's razor.

The big problems I see are the 2 week out window rather than the day before and how unused permits are reissued (or not).
I disagree with the cavalier dismissal of people without internet access and skills as somehow not worthy of the opportunity to backpack in the Sierra. This is once again marginalizing the already marginalized. It's their park, too. Forcing all permits to online adds an unnecessary barrier. To backpack in the Sierra, you have to physically go there. Under the old system, with some walk-up permits available, plus no-shows, that was all you had to do - go there and take something that was available. Under the system in summer 2020, there was now an extra barrier - internet access and skills in advance of your trip.

I didn't get any Inyo NF permits last summer, but I did try several times for Yosemite Park permits - and managed to get one. In Yosemite in summer 2020 with no walk-ups permits, you could only reserve online at least 9 days in advance. This was so they had enough time to get you to attend an online orientation, since they couldn't give you the lecture in person at the walk-up counter. So now they imposed another unnecessary barrier - you had to make all plans at least 9 days in advance. No waiting to make decisions based on conditions, such as weather or smoke from fires.

It was certainly harder to get a permit last summer when everything was online, but that does not necessarily mean that there was more use. This is because the online-only system couldn't deal effectively with no-shows. People could reserve well in advance, and then just decide not to go, but not cancel, so their permit was never made available for someone else. Under the walk-up system, if they didn't show by the morning of their reservation, it was released to be reassigned to walk-ups. In the past, I have obtained one of these walk-up permits from a no-show. Can't do that if there are no walk-ups. I think no-shows were happening a lot last summer. For example, in July 2020 I was monitoring the permits for Yosemite Park looking for something in the Cathedral Range. The 40% of permits formerly available as walk-ups were going online 14 days in advance. I finally snagged one permit for a solo trip out of Tuolumne Meadows on the Cathedral Lakes trail for early August. While checking, I noticed that all or nearly all 15 permits for Nelson Lake were taken each day during the week that I was planning to be out in the backcountry. On my 4th night, I camped at Nelson Lake. In spite of 15 permits reserved, only two other people were camped there!

So yes, I believe the prior system, with the majority of permits reservable in advance, but some held back (plus no-shows) for walk-ups, is in fact more equitable than forcing all permits to be obtained online. Online only discriminates against people with less internet access or skills, and it "wastes" the permits of no-shows.

-Phil

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