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Petition To Return To PreCovid Walk-in Permit System
#58327 02/15/21 11:16 AM
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Please sign, the more signatures we get, the better chance we have to get these agencies to consider our request! Thank you!

http://chng.it/NcyLzS2yGS

Re: Petition To Return To PreCovid Walk-in Permit System
Maverick #58328 02/16/21 11:31 PM
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Sorry, but I have to oppose this petition.

As it stands now, I can make all my reservations online. If I need a last-minute permit, I may or may not score one online. If I can’t get the trailhead I want, I can get something else, do a dayhike, or stay home. The important point is that my wife and my partners and I all know what I’m going to do, in advance, before I leave the house.

With the old walk-up system, I had to organize all my stuff, load it into the car, and drive a minimum of three hours to stand in line and hope I got the permit I wanted. If I got no permit, I was screwed. If I settled for a different permit, I had to contact my wife and climbing partners to let them know of the change of plans. That isn’t easy, since Lee Vining is the closest permit station to Reno, and my carrier has zero cell coverage there. Even if I got my first choice permit at 11:00 AM, I would have to waste the rest of the day doing nothing more than driving to the trailhead. I’m retired, but a working stiff would have to take an entire day off, just to pick up the permit at 11:00 AM.

As the petition says, “The enjoyment of our wilderness areas should not be made more difficult”. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what returning to in-person walk-up permits would do.

Re: Petition To Return To PreCovid Walk-in Permit System
bobpickering #58329 02/17/21 12:57 AM
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Originally Posted by bobpickering
Sorry, but I have to oppose this petition.
...
As the petition says, “The enjoyment of our wilderness areas should not be made more difficult”. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what returning to in-person walk-up permits would do.

It might be nice to have a setup where there is a financial incentive to cancel unused permits, only if cancelled at least 3 days ahead. Then out of area people could get at the cancelled permit slots on the net and unused permits, cancelled or not, could be picked up by walk-up. Walk-up can be handled without face-to-face contact by showing a cell phone number through the window or by CCTV so the applicant can be called in the parking lot or perform the transaction entirely by two way CCTV.

Dale B. Dalrymple

Re: Petition To Return To PreCovid Walk-in Permit System
Maverick #58330 02/17/21 11:06 AM
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Side issue. All I ask is they take Thor Peak out of the Whitney Zone. mad

Re: Petition To Return To PreCovid Walk-in Permit System
AndyC #58331 02/17/21 11:15 AM
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I didn't think that Thor Peak was considered to be in the Whitney zone. I guess if you were to climb it through mirror lake or boy scout lake then yes it's in the zone. I've always climbed it way before the Whitney zone sign - right before you get to the log crossing before Lone Pine Lake. I wonder if the actual peak lies in the zone.

Re: Petition To Return To PreCovid Walk-in Permit System
fit2climb #58332 02/17/21 11:53 AM
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Re: Petition To Return To PreCovid Walk-in Permit System
AndyC #58333 02/17/21 04:23 PM
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I disagree with Bob.

I am 71 and have been hiking in the Sierras for 56 years, in other words, I am retired.

Let's look at Kearsarge Pass quotas. Currently there are 60 permits per day of which 36 are reservable and 24 are walkin. I have no problem with making advance reservations, but the current system only displays the reservable permits and does not take into account the walkin. So how does one get a walkin when there isn't a walkin. Well you have to call and call. Then you have to wait, sometimes days for the permit to be processed, and then wait for the email to arrive.

For me, I live less than 3 hours away. Sometimes I decide to drive up and arrive just before closing and get a permit for the next day. You can't do that now. It's an added layer to obtaining a walkin permit.

Last year, I tried over and over to get a permit for Trail Pass, a non-quota pass. Trail Pass is my go to pass to get into the backcountry easily. The current system put a limit on the permits, even though the pass is non-quota. I again had to call and call.

There is no question that the current system restricts access, not helps.

Just my thoughts.

Paul

Re: Petition To Return To PreCovid Walk-in Permit System
Paul #58334 02/17/21 04:24 PM
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And yes, I would love to see Thor Peak outside the Whitney zone.

paul

Re: Petition To Return To PreCovid Walk-in Permit System
Paul #58335 02/17/21 11:36 PM
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I’m not sure why you’re disagreeing, Paul. I just want everything to be available online. The petition is asking to have some of the permits reserved for walk-up, making them unavailable online.

The last time I wanted a permit on short notice, I simply checked recreation.gov until a cancellation appeared. Yes, it took a while. But there were no unanswered phone calls. I didn’t have to drive for hours hoping for an opening that didn’t exist. And I eventually snagged a Whitney Zone day permit, drove down from Reno, and climbed Mt. Russell.

There is plenty of room for improvement with the current system. And I have no objection to making unused permits available for walk-up. I just don’t want them deliberately reserving permits for walk-up, making them unavailable for online access.

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Re: Petition To Return To PreCovid Walk-in Permit System
bobpickering #58336 02/18/21 01:00 PM
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Bob,

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.

Last edited by Maverick; 02/18/21 01:14 PM.
Re: Petition To Return To PreCovid Walk-in Permit System
Maverick #58337 02/19/21 01:22 AM
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I am currently shopping for a large, red Patagonia down sweater and the REI nearest to me has precisely one in stock. I can order it online and choose between having it sent to me or held at customer service for me to pick up in person. I could also call REI to place the order by phone or even just head to the store and take my chances that no one will beat me to it. If someone were to buy it before me, I could backorder it. And there is even a chance that by the time I get around to buying it, someone will have returned one and increased the number of items available. None of this is impacted by my residential zip code, either.

I land squarely with you, Bob--deliberately setting aside any number of permits for walk-ups is the wrong way to go. During the last five years I lived both in Northern California and in Brooklyn and have purchased permits in each of those years. The walk-in system gave locals a home court advantage of which I myself took advantage. But we are talking about National parks, forests, and wilderness areas supported by all of our tax dollars. You are right, Maverick--it shouldn't be an exclusionary system. But planning six months ahead is not a luxury, it is a necessity for most of us that are not locals, and one that comes with significant financial risk. In order to spend a week in the Sierras during the summer--on Whitney or elsewhere--I need to purchase a permit between late December and late February, purchase plane tickets, reserve a car, and then hope that nothing like a pandemic, fires, or rockfall at Whitney Portal disrupts or cancels my plans for the year.

Personally, I am hopeful that the powers that be will continue to make adjustments that work for all of us. The pandemic forced the airlines to figure out how to fix very similar issues (and some absurd ones, like selling more tickets for a flight than a plane has seats). Recreation.gov just needs to further evolve and become the Expedia of the four agencies managing public lands.

Re: Petition To Return To PreCovid Walk-in Permit System
Goose #58338 02/19/21 11:20 AM
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Bob, yes, I think you clarified a couple issues; however, I still need your thoughts on walkin changes. And Maverick, I agree that some people have more flexibility in their life than others and that is where the walkin process is helpful and should not be ignored.

Currently, using Kearsarge Pass as an example, the forest service allocates (allows) 60 hikers per day to enter the backcountry (overnight stay), of which 36 or 60 percent are reservable and 40 percent or 24 are unreservable (walkin).

Walkins are issued either the day of or for the next day.

Are you suggesting that walkins permits be reservable more than the current days the system allows? If so, how many days in advance would be appropriate?

As to Goose’s comment. You are dealing with a finite resource with pretty much an unlimited interest. You could move all the 24 unreservable permits to reservable and you would still have the same issues you have now. During the summer or peak months, the Kearsarge trailhead is fully booked, that is both reservable and non-reserable).

Dale, I totally agree with you. I am not sure how to make that work, but here is my take. To avoid hikers cancelling without notifying the forest service and freeing up permits, how about the system upon cancelation give the person cancelling a free (non $6 charge for their next reservation)? To entice the person even more, raise the permit fee to $10 or $15. The free reservation is only good for the current hiking season and based on available quotas.

And, there is no question, I repeat, no question, the current system is poorly designed.

Re: Petition To Return To PreCovid Walk-in Permit System
Paul #58339 02/19/21 11:39 AM
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Just to clarify, Paul, I am not suggesting adding more ways to reserve or otherwise tie up permits. I actually agree with you that last minute, day-of or day-before distribution of permits makes sense. But I do not understand why limiting their accessibility to in-person pick-up needs to be a requirement. Wouldn't it be even easier for you if you could hop online and pay for a permit before even heading out, especially for same day permits? Why can't whatever permits are released be made available to everyone and not just to the Rangers to hand out to whomever is close enough to get there before closing? This would actually help people like you, Maverick. There really is a way to make this work better for everyone.

I think the crux lies in that the current system was not actually designed but is instead a patchwork of updates and band-aids.

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Re: Petition To Return To PreCovid Walk-in Permit System
Goose #58340 02/19/21 01:19 PM
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I finally got around to calling the Wilderness Permit number and my regular Inyo NF staff person-contact. Good changes are ahead!

Software is currently in development -- not in testing yet, but hoping to be in production by July. The idea is to automatically make walk-in permits available 2 weeks before the hike date at 7 AM each morning. Also part of that is to offer refunds to people who cancel their reservations up to 12 days before their hike date. (I am lobbying that this refund window be made way shorter -- I don't know what bad could happen if they made it as short as several days ...except Inyo needs to make contact with the recipient to email their permit.)

Unfortunately Whitney lottery permits are not being offered that same refund for cancellation. Apparently lottery permits are handled as a different animal. I pointed out that cancellation refunds would make a large number of permits available for others to grab (and pay for) so Inyo and recreation.gov would actually be rewarded for the policy.

Also, there is some mechanism for Whitney lottery no-show permits to automatically go back online, so there may be more last-minute permits available.

As for true "walk-in" permits: Due to COVID, the Visitor Center and face-to-face encounters with staff is still being limited or non-existent. Change to get back to pre-COVID happens slowly.

I do think one of the biggest issues that causes some of the longer time windows is the need to get an official hard-copy permit into the hiker's hands that they can carry.

By the way, everyone, there are a really good number of ideas presented in this discussion. Occasionally, Inyo staff read these discussions, so your time to write is appreciated. The reservation system is in constant change due the the changing environment of COVID as well as the Internet and online environment. I think the process will continue to improve over time.

Re: Petition To Return To PreCovid Walk-in Permit System
Steve C #58341 02/19/21 02:54 PM
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Quote
Wouldn't it be even easier for you if you could hop online and pay for a permit before even heading out, especially for same day permits? Why can't whatever permits are released be made available to everyone and not just to the Rangers to hand out to whomever is close enough to get there before closing? This would actually help people like you, Maverick.

That would work in theory, but with all the issues that are going on with the pre-booking already, I don't have much trust in the online system, especially if all the people who were unable to reserve permits the first time, will all be now in the bidding for the same so-called "walk-ins".
I drive from the Bay Area, so I am not a local, but also not from out of state either, the pre-covid "walk-in" system has worked for the decades I have been visiting the Sierra, and I have not heard any major out cry for change to it.
Let's be fair about this, now, that its proposed to be online and suites those individuals who don't ever use it, don't care for, or just want a second chance to secure a permit for a trailhead that they couldn't the first round (on-line), the previous "walk-in" process now became suddenly a problem. Shouldn't the system be equitable to all tax payers, all of us should think about our fellow backpackers/climbers, and not only themselves.

Re: Petition To Return To PreCovid Walk-in Permit System
Maverick #58342 02/20/21 01:22 AM
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I may be mistaken, but to be completely fair I think that a lot of the friction discussed here was triggered by pandemic safety protocols. Look, I get it. As I mentioned, when I lived in the Bay Area I, too, enjoyed the ease and flexibility of the walk-in permit system (it did require the extra day off that Bob noted, however, at least for me). For me at least, this discussion is a lot like the roll-out of New Coke back in the 80's. The old Coke was gone and never coming back, so there was not much point in talking about it.

Thank you, Steve, for the update and feedback, especially about the Inyo staff keeping an eye on posts made here. With that in mind, what if we made it easier for them and started a brainstorm/wish list here (cut and paste most current list into a new post)? A couple of items that come to mind to me personally would be:

- No need to confirm reservations because of...
- ...an automated reminder, perhaps 72 hours prior to a trip, with an easy one-click cancellation button.
- A virtual permit retrieval process...
- ...and an automatic reservation cancellation process for permits not retrieved by a deadline, 24 to 36 hours before a trip.
- The availability of cancelled permits for a "walk-in" process that is both in person and online.
- Any features that would free staff up to troubleshoot, answer the phone, etc.

One big problem with the current and former iterations was the reliance on people to confirm or cancel reservations, or even permits (plans do fall apart at the last moment). Addressing this would help everyone.

Just my thoughts, trying to help. I know that most if not all of you have much more experience the walk-in system, and there is more than a little bit of a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" aspect to this. That said, the absence of an outcry for change is not necessarily the best indicator that people were happy.

Re: Petition To Return To PreCovid Walk-in Permit System
Maverick #58343 02/20/21 04:13 PM
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This thread began with Maverick asking us to support a petition to the Forest Service. He wants them to reinstate a system in which 40% of permits were only issued in-person, as walk-up permits. Those permits were not available online. This is an exclusionary system, despite Maverick saying, “it shouldn't be an exclusionary system.”

I oppose the petition. Any permit that is available as a walk-up should also be available simultaneously online. I will say more about the petition below, but first, I want to discuss a few issues that aren’t about to the petition.

There are 40 million people in California alone. The capacity of the wilderness is limited. Unfortunately, the days of writing our own permits at will are long gone. Until recently, we had to deal with an insane patchwork of permitting systems. We had to apply online, by snail mail, email, or by fax, depending on who issued the permit. Application dates and procedures were all over the place. A few years ago, I wanted to enter SEKI from a USFS trailhead. SEKI insisted that I had to have a permit, and the USFS didn’t require permits for that trailhead, so they refused to issue one. Getting that straightened out was a major cluster! Fortunately, more and more agencies are switching to Recreation.gov. Recreation.gov is far from perfect, but it’s more consistent, and it usually works pretty well.

Some people reserve permits, don’t use them, and then never cancel their reservations. Yes, this is a problem. Yes, a financial incentive to cancel unused permits might help. Nothing short of banning all reservations will eliminate the problem. Maybe they could adjust the quotas to reflect the fact that some people don’t use their permits, and maybe they have already done this. They aren’t going to ban reservations, so this issue should have no bearing on the petition.

Most popular trails have quotas in the summer. There are no quotas in the winter. Last summer, I needed a permit for an unpopular non-quota trail in Humboldt-Toiyabe NF during quota season. They close their self-issue station during quota season, and there was no way to reserve my permit online. It took several weeks of emails and phone tag to get my permit, and they charged me fifteen bucks for what should have been a free self-issue permit. I think we can all agree that permits for a trail with no quota should be as easy to obtain as possible. That means at least online and walk-up. Self-issue after hours would be nice, but that might not work, because some people would try to write self-issue permits for quota trails.

Reservations are a necessity. My friend, Gary, lives in Atlanta. My friend, Sabrina, lives in England. They both love to hike and climb in the Sierra. Planning a trip to the Sierra requires, you guessed it, planning. It involves plane tickets, a rental car, probably hotel and/or campground reservations, and wilderness permits. Many wilderness permits and campground reservations are available six months in advance. Six months is fine with me, but I wouldn’t mind something shorter.

In the early days of the quota system, holding back 40% of the permits for walk-up may have made sense. We didn’t all have internet access at home and a smart phone in our pocket or purse. It took much longer to reserve and obtain a permit before we had recreation.gov. In those days, the only viable choices were advance reservations and walk-up.

However, walk-up permits have serious problems. If you want a permit for a quota trail, you have to be standing in line at the permit station at 11:00 AM the day before your entry date. If you’re not a local, that means you have to miss an entire day of work, just to get your permit. If you don’t get your permit, you are screwed! Now that we can reserve permits online, there is no excuse for not allowing everyone to book ALL permits online. Everyone on this thread obviously has internet access and knows how to use it. If you can’t figure out recreation.gov, or if you just prefer to talk to a ranger in person, go ahead and do the walk-up.

The COVID-19 pandemic required some big changes. We quit doing anything, including issuing permits, in person. They made the old “40% walk-up” permits available online two weeks in advance. This was a big improvement over the old system. We didn’t have to pack our stuff and drive several hours, only to find out that somebody beat us to our coveted trailhead. We could know for sure, before packing our gear and driving for several hours, that we had our permits. This is a reasonable compromise for those that can’t or don’t want to plan six months in advance. BTW, two weeks wasn’t my idea, and I think one week is also reasonable.

If, after actually reading this, you still think we should go back to the exclusionary 40% walk-up only system, I have this suggestion: Ask the NFL to reserve a big block of Superbowl tickets for people who drive to the stadium on Superbowl Sunday and want to buy a ticket.

Originally Posted by Maverick
I don't have much trust in the online system, especially if all the people who were unable to reserve permits the first time, will all be now in the bidding for the same so-called "walk-ins".

Maverick’s intentions are clear. He wants to exclude people who apply for permits six months in advance from applying for the 40% he wants to reserve for walk-up only. This petition is a bad idea. Please don’t support it.

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Re: Petition To Return To PreCovid Walk-in Permit System
bobpickering #58344 02/20/21 09:30 PM
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Originally Posted by bobpickering
:
Some people reserve permits, don’t use them, and then never cancel their reservations. Yes, this is a problem. Yes, a financial incentive to cancel unused permits might help. Nothing short of banning all reservations will eliminate the problem. Maybe they could adjust the quotas to reflect the fact that some people don’t use their permits, and maybe they have already done this. They aren’t going to ban reservations, so this issue should have no bearing on the petition.
:
Reservations are a necessity. My friend, Gary, lives in Atlanta. My friend, Sabrina, lives in England. They both love to hike and climb in the Sierra. Planning a trip to the Sierra requires, you guessed it, planning. It involves plane tickets, a rental car, probably hotel and/or campground reservations, and wilderness permits. Many wilderness permits and campground reservations are available six months in advance. Six months is fine with me, but I wouldn’t mind something shorter.
:

I thought of an idea while hiking today (nice to live in Southern California).

Quota ~20% of permits for 'walk in'. The rest are reserved online.

If your permit is for July 8, and you live 1000+ miles from the trail head (it is expensive for you to get there), then have a special provision. First of all, a $15+ refund is no incentive as these people that far away lose a lot more $$$ canceling.

The special provision is that if you have to cancel (family emergency, illness, etc.), then if you cancel within ~4-5 days your permits become immediately available to anyone online or walk-in. You then have priority for the number in your party that cancelled for the permits in the 'walk-in' quota pool for a future date of your choice within that season. This would be basically swapping permits.

Exceptions would be for highly sought after dates (long weekends), so people don't game the system.

You could only do this once per season.

Thoughts?

Re: Petition To Return To PreCovid Walk-in Permit System
futbol #58347 02/23/21 07:05 PM
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I hiked Mountaineer's Route 9 times beside another 5 attempts. In 3 cases I was the beneficiary, in a group of 3 people, of the walk-in permit lottery at 2PM for the next day permit if I recall correctly. That time I understood that a permit become available, w/o cost, if not confirmed before 11AM the previous day. We got, from Bay Area, at the Visitor Center before 1PM Saturday, we applied for the walk-in lottery and at 2PM we won the permit for next day, "day-hike" on Sunday. I applied in 3 cases and I got the permit in all 3.
In my case walk-in worked fine. I'd hike Mountaineer's Route this year too. I am for walk-in permit lottery.

Re: Petition To Return To PreCovid Walk-in Permit System
Nick_B #58348 02/24/21 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Nick_B
I am for walk-in permit lottery.
What do you propose for someone who drives 275 miles, as I would have to do, and doesn’t win the walk-up lottery? Wouldn’t it make more sense to make this available online?

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