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Unintended Consequences: New First-come permit policy

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Unintended Consequences: New First-come permit policy

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jun 16, 2011 8:03 am

At first I thought the new policy for getting first come permits day before at 11AM was an improvement. Now I am wondering. I am going to Yosemite with someone who has work obligations so we cannot get there until all permit stations have closed the night before. Chances are that most of the first-come permits will be gone as we try to get our permit when stations open. This policy has negative consequences for local weekend users who must work on Friday. As a retired person, this is not a problem. I can get my permit 11AM for the next day and then sit around an drink beer the rest of the day! But this policy seems to be really bad for working "weekend warriors" who want an overnight backpack. At least before you could line up early Sat AM and still have a chance to get a permit. This policy basically makes you waste an entire day just to get a permit. Am I interpreting this wrong? Any ideas on how to get around this?



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Re: Unintended Consequences: New First-come permit policy

Postby tim » Thu Jun 16, 2011 8:11 am

I think we've debated this before, but my understanding of the previous policy was that you could get the permit as soon as the office opened the day before your trip. Moving it to 11am is simply to avoid conflicts with people picking up pre-booked permits (and so you don't have to line up at 5am).

The problem for weekend warriors existed before and exists today, but there's not many good ways round it - allowing first come first served permits to only be picked up on the day of the hike (even if just for Saturday trips) would also cause problems for those wanting to make an early start.

Realistically if you work then you have to plan and pre-book - I just book several permits early season and if I can't make that trip when it comes down to it, $5 per person is not that much to lose.
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Re: Unintended Consequences: New First-come permit policy

Postby snusmumriken » Thu Jun 16, 2011 1:03 pm

Daisy,
I am not sure I understand the issue. You drive to the trail head Friday night and arrive after the permit office is closed. Then first thing in the morning on Saturday when the permit office opens you go to get your first come permit and head off. If you don't need a permit until Sunday then you have to wait until 11 am on Saturday for a next day permit. But if you don't need it until Sunday then you are wasting that day anyway!
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Re: Unintended Consequences: New First-come permit policy

Postby maverick » Thu Jun 16, 2011 1:23 pm

Hi WD

Here is the new policy:

Change to walk up Wilderness permits first-come, first-served procedure for 2011

"New this season, first-come, first-served wilderness permits will be available one day in
advance beginning at 11:00 am (not at opening). Wilderness permit reservations can still
be picked up the same day or one day in advance when the wilderness center opens.
Same-day first-come, first-served permits are also available when the wilderness center
opens. This model is similar to the one currently in place by surrounding US Forest Service
wilderness permit issuing stations."

First-come, first-served wilderness permits will be issued at 11 am, not at opening
but the same-day first-come, first-served permits will continue to be available
at opening and they always have a set quota for these permits, so those of us who have
been getting our permits the day of our hike have not been affected.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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: Unintended Consequences: New First-come permit policy

Postby SSSdave » Tue Jun 21, 2011 10:57 am

Hi WD,

You've pretty much nicely sized up an issue I've posted on several boards over the last decade. Probably on this board too. This gives me a chance to stand up on the soapbox once again thankyou.

Decades ago there was no picking up permits the day before and in fact the different park and forest agencies all did their own thing, often making obtaining wilderness permits awkward. Lots of we 60s/70s generation mountain users complained regularly so that policies began to change. Inyo National Forest for both that and other permit issues has been at the lead of making thoughtful changes.

One of the policies implemented was the ability to pick up reserved wilderness permits the day before instead of the former policy of the day of one's trip. Then walk up's began to be able to obtain permits the day before that was also a good change for the most part. However those walk ups making sure they would fit into a limited quota trailhead would then come the day before right when a ranger station permit office opened. On busy days that tended to delay departure for those picking up reserved permits on their day of departure who also would receive the standard policy sermon. Of course many that have reserved permits still pick up their permits on the actual day of departure instead of the day before. That is especially true for those that are m-f 8-5 working people that likely drove up in the evening to the Sierra after getting off work, thus after closing times. So delaying the day before policy till late morning was a good change too.

The best systems as with Inyo NF changed the need for a face to face sermon and began the night box pick up system that was terific for m-f working people who almost always wished an early start (like this person). And some agencies make obtaining permits at relatively short notice via a number of means like the web or phone, much easier than what was more common years ago when mail in permits were all there was. Stanislaus NF permit policy is particular nice.

As it is, on Saturdays, if one must wait till 7am to 9am for a permit office to open, get the permit, listen to the sermon, drive often miles to the trailhead, it may be 8am to 10am at a minimum for a hike start. That chews off a significant amount of the limited time for a weekend trip often making such trips not worth the trouble and effort. Thus the net effect is there is much less weekend backpacking by most of us would like to, than there ought to be. Some will argue that a person ought to simply reserve a permit beforehand. The hard core enthusiast often decides on short trips from week to week without long term planning. Week long trips we plan, weekend trips likely not and probably midweek have a finger out checking the weather before deciding going anywhere. Those in the Climbing community are especially so.

There are many times when all reserved permits on a trailhead for Saturday starts during summer are full that only leaves walk up possibilities. For those with schedules that allow driving up Friday morning, that is fine because they can easily obtain any walk up permits. Of course there are a minor number of workers like grocery clerks etc that often have unusual changing working schedules and for them the current policy is great. However most of we m-f 8-5 working people that make up by far the majority of society, would have to waste a precious day of PTO just for the sake of getting a permit early. If one is an infrequent mountain backpacking user, that may not be much an issue, however there are many of we hard core enthusiasts that cannot be taking off extra days regularly just to obtain a permit.

So what I have been promoting is that for Saturday only, the policy be that one cannot pick up a walk up permit the day before on Friday. The rest of the week fine. But for the sake of the vast majority, allow us a FAIR chance at obtaining walk ups. For those with flexible schedules, they will still be able to get permits easily on any of the other days.

David Senesac
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Re: Unintended Consequences: New First-come permit policy

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Jun 22, 2011 8:26 am

Just to wrap up my discussion- last weekend we just missed getting to Evergreen Road by 9PM, so next morning we drove the extra miles to Hetch Hetchy station to get a 7AM permit and there were still plenty of openings. I had nine different alternative trip plans! With their computer system, apparantly they can see my record of use, so the ranger simply said "you know the rules" and no sermon was given. By the time we got down to the Valley, parked, shuttled to trailhead, it was nearly 10AM. The reason I did not reserve a permit had nothing to do with cost- I simply could not predict ahead of time which trails would be feasible given the uncertain snow situation. Our first choice would have been to start on Tioga Road and hike to the Valley, but had no idea when Tioga would open - as it was, we missed the opening of Tioga by one day! Ironically, in spite of the permitting system that is supposed to spread out use, nearly 20 people trickled into our first night's camping area after we arrived. A number of the previous day's hikers turned back because the trail was covered with snow, and although they had time to go back to the Valley, they would have had no place to stay (backpacker's campground was partially flooded and their permit would not techincally allow this anyway) so we ended up with a botteneck at the top of the switchbacks on Snow Creek.

There are other issues with permitting. With limited access, who should get priority? When there are only 10 permits available should one group of 10 be allowed to use up all permits for that day? On the most popular trailheads, should there be an annual limit for how many times a single person can use that trailhead? With increased foreign tourism, should a number of permits be held back for American citizens (tax payers who make the parks possible)? Should nearby locals have any more privliges than those from far away? (When I lived in Wyoming locals were really upset that an out-of-state hunter could easily get a moose permit, and locals would be lucky to draw a permit once every 10 years) . First-come permits seem to be reduced over time- will this eventually lead to reserve permits only? Are permits being used to manage a resource or simply to deny access? Is eliteism creeping into the permitting system? Is it going the way of only the rich or leisure class get to use our parks and forests? Who sets permit policy anyway and what input do we have as ordinary backpackers? Seems like the RVers have a powerful lobby to look out for their interests- where is our backpacker's lobby? (for years I was a member of the Access Fund - a lobby group for climbers to ensure access).

To end this, let me say that I am in favor of permitting- I see that it is needed given the pressure on the resource, but I am also very pro-access. There certainly are improvements that need to be made in the permitting system. I just do not know how to make my voice be heard in this debate.
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Re: Unintended Consequences: New First-come permit policy

Postby BSquared » Sat Jun 25, 2011 9:49 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:... Seems like the RVers have a powerful lobby to look out for their interests- where is our backpacker's lobby? (for years I was a member of the Access Fund - a lobby group for climbers to ensure access).

Now there is an idea whose time has come! The Sierra Club used to be a very powerful lobby for backpacking (and enjoyment of the wilderness generally), but I think their lobbying now is much more on general environmental issues, isn't it? (Somebody who is a Sierra Club member might want to correct me on this.) I joined the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) to support the parks, but again, they're a bit more general (though very much pro-access). So is there a lobbying group for backpackers? If not, let's start one!
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