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

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

Post by freestone » Thu Feb 18, 2021 8:44 am

I am all for making sure quality Wilderness Permits are available to all, regardless of skillset or social economic status but can't quite go there when the alternative is to go back to the old way of issuing permits so I will not be signing the petition. There are only a handful of locations that are sold out by 7:01 AM so if someone who is challenged truly wants to go into the Sierra, there are choices. Some of the prized locations such as Bishop Pass and Cottonwood lakes could be separated out of the system and placed on a lottery the same as Whitney. Not ideal, but al least everyone will have the same random chance to score.

All it takes is a little practice and the motivation to be on the site by 6:58 AM. Type your choice in the filter then keep refreshing the site with the "Previous" dates option. At exactly 7AM the tickets will there. There are also lots of TouTube video tips on how to work with Rec.Gov and get the most out of it.


Short cuts make long delays. JRR Tolkien






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

Post by maverick » Thu Feb 18, 2021 12:47 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?
Thanks for taking the time to post the numbers. :thumbsup:
The petition is only going to the National Forest Service as indicated previously.
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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 michaelzim » Thu Feb 18, 2021 12:49 pm

@freestone You are not really addressing what I consider to be the biggest difficulty with the proposed system. Having a decent chance of getting a "W" walk in permit close enough to ones trip time/permit date to evaluate the list of variables that can never be known 6 months in advance.

Snow conditions on cross country passes, creek levels, mosquitoes intensity, 10 day and 3 day weather forecasts, fires, smoke, etc. All of these are major factors for when I decide to go on a backpacking trip. They determine everything from what gear I take to what routes I am roughing out. Or even if I go at all, as I do not want to to be leaving into one of those freezing wet blasts that can come in during early September and make a trip risky and plain not worth doing. And the new awful reality of fires and smoke which have trashed 75% of my planned trips in the past 5 years.

The "24 hour" walk in permit allowed me to get my gear ready, phone in a permit the day before, leave at 4:00 am, pick up the permit en route and get to the trailhead before dark. I can't do all that if I have to wait for 10:00 am on the permit day. I live too far away, plus have no smartphone to sit outside a ranger station on the slim hope of tagging a No Show permit.
I have no objection to getting "W" permits online if I can do it on my desktop at home IF there were any left - which there will not be for most entries if a 2 week advance window. Those 40% that were held back until 24 hours before gave me pretty good odds. Just relying on No Shows after 10:00 am are no odds at all for the stress and hassle I would have to put up with to actually try it.

I also disagree with
freestone wrote:
Thu Feb 18, 2021 8:44 am
There are only a handful of locations that are sold out by 7:01 AM
Just watching rec.gov the last few days is kind of frightening to see how many entries get gobbled up rapidly. Trying to get a permit at Inyo at a more leisurely pace is next to impossible for any of the more 'temperate' entries. The remaining options after the initial micro-crush seem to be for places like Taboose Pass and Baxter Pass, etc. which I plain don't think I can do at 70! Those 6,000 ft. straight up entries are history for me.
Now my suspicion, (and agreed with by my Inyo contact) is that if the pressure is this great right now for mid-summer permits, it is going to be vastly more IN mid-summer, when lots of people are actually thinking about going to the mountains. My guess is that the moment those 2 week "W" permits go online they are going to be gone. For almost anywhere.
Micro-gaming the rec.gov site should not become yet another hurdle to get into the wilderness with the highest chances of safety, success and pleasure.

You may say I am spoiled to be able to go on a trip at short notice. Well maybe, but being self-employed or retired should not be a deciding issue, and for sure there are many, many folks who do what I do. Or at least want to be able to continue to do.

Best ~ Michaelzim

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

Post by maverick » Thu Feb 18, 2021 1:51 pm

I am all for making sure quality Wilderness Permits are available to all, regardless of skillset or social economic status but can't quite go there when the alternative is to go back to the old way of issuing permits so I will not be signing the petition. There are only a handful of locations that are sold out by 7:01 AM so if someone who is challenged truly wants to go into the Sierra, there are choices. Some of the prized locations such as Bishop Pass and Cottonwood lakes could be separated out of the system and placed on a lottery the same as Whitney. Not ideal, but al least everyone will have the same random chance to score.

All it takes is a little practice and the motivation to be on the site by 6:58 AM. Type your choice in the filter then keep refreshing the site with the "Previous" dates option. At exactly 7AM the tickets will there. There are also lots of TouTube video tips on how to work with Rec.Gov and get the most out of it.
We will agree to disagree.

This system does not work for many folks I know personally. They, as myself, cannot make a reservations ahead of time, we don't have the luxury to plan that far in advance, some have kids or jobs that make it a last minute decision, and others trips are weather/backcountry conditions/wildfire dependent.

For the people who the reservation system works and can plan 6 months out, great, but those unable to secure a wilderness permit 6 months in advance because of the difficulties in the system now, will then have a second opportunity again, when the so-called "walk-in" permits go online 2 weeks prior to the date, giving that group, a second chance to secure a wilderness permit, which will make getting a so-called "walk-in" permit impossible.

Maybe they can release the cancelled permits a week or two before, but keep the thru walk-in permits.

This newer system benefits the folks who can plan their trips online and ahead of time, and completely disregards a whole other group who have been using the walk-in system for decades, both of our tax dollars are used in funding these agencies, it shouldn't be an exclusionary system.
Professional Sierra Landscape Photographer

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 maverick » Thu Feb 18, 2021 2:26 pm

SEKI Wilderness Coordinator saw our petition, and wrote the following:
Hello Mr. Agoston,

I'm the Wilderness Coordinator for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. One of my responsibilities is oversight of the wilderness permit system. I'm writing in regard to your petition to reinstate walk up wilderness permits this summer.

I can't speak for other agencies, but Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are planning to return to in-person permit issuance in 2021. We plan to keep a portion of the daily entry quotas available for first-come, first-served walk up permits which can be issued as early as the afternoon before the entry date. As in the past, "no show" reservations will be returned to the pool of quota available for walk ups. Some entry points (Lakes Trail, Lakes Trail Pass Through, Don Cecil Trail, Colony Mill Road Trail, North Fork Kaweah, and Oriole Lake Road Trail) will have a 100% walk up quota.

We are taking the winter to figure out how to do this in a way that prevents the spread of illness and feel confident that we can make it work with cooperation from the public.

I also want to point out a couple new policies related to our new Recreation.Gov permit reservation system that may be of interest. While it's not a walk-up, the Reservation.Gov call center can make reservations and has TDD capability. This doesn't change the fact that some reservations are snapped up quickly, but provides an option for those without access to a computer or that have sensory limitations. We also hope the new system will incentivize people to cancel unused reservations and reduce party size by providing a refund of a portion of the fees which we have not had capacity to do in the past.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. You may also submit official correspondence; contact information is at https://www.nps.gov/seki/contacts.htm. We are committed to improving the permit system and appreciate your feedback.

Regards,

Erik
==================================
Erik Frenzel
Wilderness Coordinator
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
To reiterate, we are not addressing SEKI or Yosemite with our petition, only the National Forests Service.
Professional Sierra Landscape Photographer

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 rayfound » Thu Feb 18, 2021 2:55 pm

My proposed solution to this actually, is a really hefty fee on permits that are *NOT* picked up.

One of the major issues right now (and exists also on campsite reservations, etc...) is the incentive structure just doesn't create the outcomes we want. The current system now, because the reservation cost is SO LOW, encourages people to just book every hopeful opportunity, book for every person like maybe might want to come (permits get booked for 5 but 2 people go on trip), and just noshow/undershow on whatever doesn't work out.

One solution would be to have a large $100+ fee/Pre-authorization on CC taken at time of reservation, which gets RETURNED when the permits get picked up and group size confirmed, or the permits get canceled ahead of a threshold.

We need the system to encourage courtesy and sharing with others, as with the quota system in place the resource is severely limited... the current structure encourages hoarding.

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

Post by mkbgdns » Thu Feb 18, 2021 3:04 pm

a security deposit

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

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Feb 18, 2021 4:04 pm

You already put a deposit down when you rent a bear can, I do not see why this would not also work for permits.

Overbooking did not have as bad consequences when people had to actually show up to get their permit; at least the unused slots were put back in the system as walk-up permits. In fact the system was reliable enough that I NEVER failed to get a permit and only twice had to change from my first choice trailhead. If I leave home at 6-7AM, I get to the Mono Visitor Center, first Inyo NF permit station if driving south on 395, just about 11 AM, packed and ready to go with several trailhead options already planned. I prefer same day permits because I hate car-camping - much easier to just park and camp a few hours up the trail. The process only took 10-20 minutes, if at all. And they have clean public bathrooms too!

I did use the reservation system when I lead groups. As much as I tried not to overbook, inevitably, one person would be a no-show and was very happy that someone else would be able to use that part of the quota.

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

Post by TurboHike » Thu Feb 18, 2021 4:23 pm

Under the current covid rules, anyone can "pick up" a reserved permit by making a phone call from home within 14 days of the trip. With a security deposit, everyone would make the call, even if they are not going to take the trip. This would prevent others from hiking. Without a security deposit, people can simply not make the phone call, and those permits get placed into the walk-up category for use by others.

Some people like the "pick up" by phone method that was used last season and this season. No need to drive to a ranger station, just go straight to the trailhead.

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

Post by chulavista » Sat Feb 20, 2021 4:27 am

maverick wrote:
Thu Feb 18, 2021 12:47 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?
Thanks for taking the time to post the numbers. :thumbsup:
The petition is only going to the National Forest Service as indicated previously.
Yeah I get that. I didn't have data for Inyo or seki but I'm guessing it's the same story. Wilderness overnight travel is a cash negative activity for the NPS and the forest service. The forest service, like the NPS, is going to have major staffing issues this summer. Maybe we could find someone in congress on their oversight committee who backpacks, but I don't think petitioning a middle manager (who probably shares your opinion) will be effective.

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