Big Bend Chat

Big Bend National Park Q&A => Backcountry Camping => Topic started by: Casa Grande on July 30, 2019, 11:54:46 PM

Title: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Casa Grande on July 30, 2019, 11:54:46 PM
Spoke to the park super, Bob Krumenaker on Friday.  He graciously offered his time to speak officially to me.  We spoke for a couple of hours over a variety of topics.  Thought I'd share those topics in separate threads to avoid confusing the conversation.  He told me some good news, except for one thing....

The permits for SELECT backcountry sites will be available to reserve online, however, there's a catch.....they'll be going up in price. No longer will there be a single flat rate for permits, as they will be going to a per night charge. This is going to make extensive night stays in the backcountry a bit more expensive. How much more expensive? He did not elaborate on the cost as I think it has yet to be determined.

The Super is a good guy, believes in transparency and is very open to listening to the public.  You may not like his answers, but he will listen, that I can promise you. 

More coming soon....

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Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: CC on July 31, 2019, 12:02:43 AM
It would be nice if they had a per-night charge combined with a generous refund policy for cancellation of unwanted reserved days.  The backcountry permits are so inexpensive for so many nights, that people can bail out of a reservation halfway through and the site goes unused for several days.  I have seen backcountry sites that were “booked”, but had no occupants on my way in late in the day, and nobody there early in the morning either.


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Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Casa Grande on July 31, 2019, 12:06:56 AM
This may be a positive side effect of the increase.  Doubt they'll refund, but it might make people be a bit more discriminating about how many nights they'll stay when they make the reservation.
It would be nice if they had a per-night charge combined with a generous refund policy for cancellation of unwanted reserved days.  The backcountry permits are so inexpensive for so many nights, that people can bail out of a reservation halfway through and the site goes unused for several days.  I have seen backcountry sites that were “booked”, but had no occupants on my way in late in the day, and nobody there early in the morning either.


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Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: mule ears on July 31, 2019, 06:23:48 AM
Lots of parks now charge by the night.  Great Smoky Mountains has for a while now and you can reserve everything online for the backcountry and print out your permit and never have to go to a ranger station.  I wonder if they will charge the same for zone camping?

Thanks for taking the time to have an in depth conversation with the Superintendent!
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Casa Grande on July 31, 2019, 07:32:44 AM
Lots of parks now charge by the night.  Great Smoky Mountains has for a while now and you can reserve everything online for the backcountry and print out your permit and never have to go to a ranger station.  I wonder if they will charge the same for zone camping?

Thanks for taking the time to have an in depth conversation with the Superintendent!
It is my understanding, there will be across the board increases in all campsites and permits, including zone camping.  The campgrounds will get a slight increase, but group camping will go up more.

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Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: DeserTrek on July 31, 2019, 08:14:22 AM
Its been a long time coming.... This will make trips much more convenient. BIBE is a far drive for most of us, so after making a long drive, the last thing I feel like dealing with is waiting in a long line! In regards to refunds, generally they will give you a credit. That said, I believe you have to give them a certain amount of time for the notice. At least, this is how the Canyonlands NP operates.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: House Made of Dawn on July 31, 2019, 09:21:25 AM
Extremely glad you got to have that conversation, CG. That’s very encouraging!

As for the fees, I’m excited to hear that the park may implement online reservations. And I don’t mind paying more for permits. IMO they’ve always been a steal, though I can imagine an increase being a hardship for some.

I do, however, worry about a per night charge. That could result in a substantial increase in trip price for, say, someone who likes to take long 14-day sojourns through the remote backcountry zones.


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Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Solo on July 31, 2019, 10:29:26 PM
Lots of parks now charge by the night... I wonder if they will charge the same for zone camping?

That would be a slap in the face.  In my opinion they have no business charging for zone camping at all.  Enjoying the wilderness areas of the park, day or night, should be covered solely by the entrance fee, which is fairly high already for such an undeveloped park.  I can see charging for campsites which have to be serviced in some way, but not for the privilege of buying my own tent, carrying it on my own back to an undeveloped piece of desert, setting it up myself, and using precisely zero park resources.  The NPS need to stop treating visitors like customers.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: House Made of Dawn on August 01, 2019, 01:04:57 AM
Lots of parks now charge by the night... I wonder if they will charge the same for zone camping?

That would be a slap in the face.  In my opinion they have no business charging for zone camping at all.  Enjoying the wilderness areas of the park, day or night, should be covered solely by the entrance fee, which is fairly high already for such an undeveloped park.  I can see charging for campsites which have to be serviced in some way, but not for the privilege of buying my own tent, carrying it on my own back to an undeveloped piece of desert, setting it up myself, and using precisely zero park resources.  The NPS need to stop treating visitors like customers.

I know. It's a natural reaction, and I've felt it myself. We need zero park resources....until we do. Well, some of us.  I just became one of those this summer. Took forty-two years, but I finally joined the club.  Some of it is just an artifact of being in a national park with all the attendant rules, restrictions, and requirements. But.....BiBe is a national park, so no use bitching about the contract we enter into when entering into. Otherwise, head to the national forests or BLM land. It's a free-for-all there.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: VivaTerlingua on August 01, 2019, 08:57:31 AM
Its been a long time coming.... This will make trips much more convenient. BIBE is a far drive for most of us, so after making a long drive, the last thing I feel like dealing with is waiting in a long line! In regards to refunds, generally they will give you a credit. That said, I believe you have to give them a certain amount of time for the notice. At least, this is how the Canyonlands NP operates.

I completely understand that sentiment, but there is also a downside.  People start reserving sites farther and farther in advance and then you end up having to plan a trip months in advance.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: presidio on August 02, 2019, 04:32:54 PM

That would be a slap in the face.  In my opinion they have no business charging for zone camping at all.  Enjoying the wilderness areas of the park, day or night, should be covered solely by the entrance fee, which is fairly high already for such an undeveloped park.

Indeed.

Quote
The NPS need to stop treating visitors like customers.

You're not just a customer, you're a financial resource to be tapped as often, and for as much, as possible for the privilege of being able to use your lands.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: presidio on August 02, 2019, 04:36:58 PM
no use bitching about the contract we enter into when entering into.

You are not entering into any contract; you are coerced into acquiescence...a unilateral requirement for you to use the lands you own.

Quote
Otherwise, head to the national forests or BLM land. It's a free-for-all there.

Not exactly, but USFS and BLM lands have a refreshing absence of the heavy hand favored by the NPS.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: presidio on August 02, 2019, 04:43:03 PM
I completely understand that sentiment, but there is also a downside.  People start reserving sites farther and farther in advance and then you end up having to plan a trip months in advance.

Just buy the DVD and have the vicarious experience of watching others enjoy the things you used to be able to do when over-regulation was not the norm.

In the 70s a group of us arrived at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Summer season was well underway. Five minutes after parking we walked into the ranger station. Five minutes later we walked out with a multiday permit for the Inner Gorge. Thirty minutes after that we were on the trail.

Today? Good luck getting anything without meticulous planning and having numerous alternatives.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: mule ears on August 02, 2019, 04:55:20 PM
I completely understand that sentiment, but there is also a downside.  People start reserving sites farther and farther in advance and then you end up having to plan a trip months in advance.

Just buy the DVD and have the vicarious experience of watching others enjoy the things you used to be able to do when over-regulation was not the norm.

In the 70s a group of us arrived at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Summer season was well underway. Five minutes after parking we walked into the ranger station. Five minutes later we walked out with a multiday permit for the Inner Gorge. Thirty minutes after that we were on the trail.

Today? Good luck getting anything without meticulous planning and having numerous alternatives.

In the 70's there were a whole lot fewer people using the parks, much less the backcountry, much easier to do everything.  I was there too in the 70's, several trips, and never had any trouble getting a permit.

presidio, I wondered where you have been but now I am weakened by the fact that you are back.   :icon_rolleyes:
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: presidio on August 02, 2019, 08:04:44 PM
In the 70's there were a whole lot fewer people using the parks, much less the backcountry, much easier to do everything.  I was there too in the 70's, several trips, and never had any trouble getting a permit.

Yeah, I knew someone would bring that up. However, the NPS was a MUCH friendlier and easier to deal with agency way back then.

Probably directly related to the fact they attracted far less incompetent customers than today, and spent way less time trying to hold everyone's hand.


Quote
presidio, I wondered where you have been but now I am weakened by the fact that you are back.   :icon_rolleyes:

I suggest rest, meditation and hydration, which will hasten the return of strength.

I come and go depending upon a variety of factors. I had not been on the site for six months and only logged on when I read about RichardM (not named) in another hit that popped up on a completely unrelated search.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Casa Grande on August 15, 2019, 05:44:27 PM
https://www.nps.gov/bibe/learn/news/proposed-changes-to-camping-reservations-and-fees.htm

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Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: austin gorpchomper on August 15, 2019, 05:52:41 PM
$6/night if you have annual pass, if I read that right, for backcountry sites.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Casa Grande on August 15, 2019, 06:04:14 PM
Quote
Backcountry Camping: $12 per night, $6 with applicable interagency pass (currently $12 per permit).

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Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Flash on August 15, 2019, 06:14:07 PM
Hmm. Must read and ponder...
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Al on August 15, 2019, 06:28:48 PM
The fee increase for back country camping is huge.  From $12 per permit to $12 per night!  That's ridiculous!
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Casa Grande on August 15, 2019, 06:53:21 PM
Be sure to make your voices heard, whether for or against.  Don't assume they're reading this, so be sure to contact them directly :

Quote
Big Bend National Park staff welcome your feedback on these proposals. Please provide your comments by September 15th, 2019. Comments may be submitted online through the National Park Service Planning website, http://parkplanning.nps.gov/bibe, by email to: bibe_planning@nps.gov; or through regular mail to:
Superintendent
PO Box 129
Big Bend National Park, TX 79834-0129.

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Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: mule ears on August 15, 2019, 07:33:38 PM
The fee increase for back country camping is huge.  From $12 per permit to $12 per night!  That's ridiculous!

If I read it correctly it will not apply to the sites you usually prefer like along the OOR and Fresno.  Equally it doesn't look like it will apply to zone camping which I almost always do.  It makes some sense to charge more for the heavily used roadside sites and the Chisos backcountry sites.

I will be contacting them to check on all of the above though.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Al on August 15, 2019, 07:37:29 PM
The fee increase for back country camping is huge.  From $12 per permit to $12 per night!  That's ridiculous!

If I read it correctly it will not apply to the sites you usually prefer like along the OOR and Fresno.  Equally it doesn't look like it will apply to zone camping which I almost always do.  It makes some sense to charge more for the heavily used roadside sites and the Chisos backcountry sites.

I will be contacting them to check on all of the above though.

It's about as clear as mud.  Please also ask if the fees are required to be paid at the time of the reservation to help prevent abuse of the reservation system.  Also what are the applicable interagency passes?

Thank  you for all that you do!
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: NatureBoyFatAdam on August 15, 2019, 07:41:01 PM


The fee increase for back country camping is huge.  From $12 per permit to $12 per night!  That's ridiculous!

It makes some sense to charge more for the heavily used roadside sites and the Chisos backcountry sites.

Yes it does. Wasn't a $12 permit good for up to two weeks?
What was the point of eighty six cents a night for a two week permit?

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Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: austin gorpchomper on August 15, 2019, 07:46:36 PM
The fee increase for back country camping is huge.  From $12 per permit to $12 per night!  That's ridiculous!

If I read it correctly it will not apply to the sites you usually prefer like along the OOR and Fresno.  Equally it doesn't look like it will apply to zone camping which I almost always do.  It makes some sense to charge more for the heavily used roadside sites and the Chisos backcountry sites.

I will be contacting them to check on all of the above though.

I read the "First 58 sites..." then toted up all the backcountry sites where they explicitly list them, assumed they meant all of them (E.g. all four at Paint Gap), and all the CHisos Mtn sites and came up with almost 58, give or take a couple.  So that seems to be them.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: austin gorpchomper on August 15, 2019, 07:49:23 PM

It's about as clear as mud.  Please also ask if the fees are required to be paid at the time of the reservation to help prevent abuse of the reservation system.  Also what are the applicable interagency passes?

Thank  you for all that you do!

Park Service calls their Annual Pass "Interagency Passes" https://store.usgs.gov/pass so I"m assuming it's the Annual or Senior Passes.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: mule ears on August 15, 2019, 07:51:42 PM
It looks like they are exactly the same as the fees for the State Park.  By contrast Great Smoky Mountains charges $4 a night per person to a max of $20 for all backpacking sites but there is no entrance fee, so if you have 4 people in your group the max permit cost would be $80.  Front country campsites run from 17.50 to $25 a night depending on popularity. GSMNP is the most visited park in the NPS system.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Al on August 15, 2019, 07:55:55 PM

It's about as clear as mud.  Please also ask if the fees are required to be paid at the time of the reservation to help prevent abuse of the reservation system.  Also what are the applicable interagency passes?

Thank  you for all that you do!

Park Service calls their Annual Pass "Interagency Passes" https://store.usgs.gov/pass so I"m assuming it's the Annual or Senior Passes.

That would be my assumption too but I hate assumptions.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: elhombre on August 15, 2019, 08:53:07 PM
The proposals all SUCK!

They would have a fine permit system if they would allow more than the 3 rangers at the backcountry permit office to issue them during peak days.  How about issue them at all the visitor centers, like the Compendium says it will be handled.  They caused this problem when they got rid of the old system, now all of us unwashed have to pay for their solution.

The permit system is already developed.  We aren't getting squat for the extra money.  Modest increase my ass.  My 10 day thanksgiving trip went from $12 to $120.  And I have to reserve my spots 6 months in advance.  That sure as heck will "enhance "my big bend experience. 

12 nights at Devil's Kitchen and surrounding sites in the needles district (Utah) costs $30  You have to have a modified 4x4 to get to them (pretty much zero road maintance preformed).  You get your choice of 2 backcountry toilets.  All the other sites come with a nice pit toilet.  Where's the comparison with the scrapped off site where people have dug a hole and crapped in the middle of the tent site at Pine Canyon?

Not one word about canceling peoples permits who don't show up the first 24 hours.  This is the electronic age.   The system should be able to handle cancelations via cell phones.  But NO!  Now more sites will go empty and unused, but they still got paid.  ( This is the REAL motive for the reservation system)

And who are all these people they say have been crying for the expansion of the reservation system?  All who that were happy with the present system didn't bitch and I sure wasn't asked for my opinion of changing the system when I was there last month.  They know exactly who has come to the park, and how many times they have been there.  How about a questionnaire  to the people who most frequent the park?

Freak'n Govment!  Why is the answer ALWAYS "Charge more money"?  I know, I know. ....  It's because they keep their jobs no matter how they perform.     
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Flash on August 15, 2019, 09:05:51 PM
Quote
* Chisos Basin Campground: increase reservable sites to 2/3rds (#1-40), reservations available year-round, up to 6 months in advance.

* Rio Grande Village Campground: increase reservable sites to 2/3rds (#1-60), reservations available up to 6 months in advance for the period of November 1 through April 15.

Not sure what they mean here by "(#1-40)". Do they mean Sites 1 - 40 will ALL be reservable now, 6-months in advance?  I think the Loop 1 sites should remain walk up only. Not everyone has a fixed schedule such that it all gets rigidly planned out. At the same time honoring the early bird is good motivation. Also, making ALL Chisos CG sites walk up only during the heat of summer (June-Aug.) is a good idea.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: mule ears on August 16, 2019, 07:24:56 AM
I read the "First 58 sites..." then toted up all the backcountry sites where they explicitly list them, assumed they meant all of them (E.g. all four at Paint Gap), and all the CHisos Mtn sites and came up with almost 58, give or take a couple.  So that seems to be them.

I get a total of 64 sites, 41 Chisos sites and 23 roadside sites from the list they provided.
Title: Re: Food for Thought: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: elhombre on August 16, 2019, 01:44:55 PM
Check these stats out.  They show the park is seeing a significant decline with respect to tent camping.  They are all percentage drops in "Total Overnight Stays" in the 3 most busy months;  November, December, and March.  So the question is WHY all of the sudden is there a need for increase in fees and a reservation system when CAMPING occupancy is trending down. 

             November 2018                          Dec 2018                        Mar 2019
Tents                                -10.9%                  -14.6                            -30.3
Backcountry                    -41.6%                   -43.9                           -25.6
Total overnight stays     -9.1%                      -11.4                          -24.3

Got the data here.  https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/Reports/Park/BIBE  Go to "Year to Date report" at the bottom for the report generator.

The only consistent increase in occupancy that keeps the "Total Overnight Stays" percentage number from dropping even lower is the Lodge and RV occupancy.  There's a HUGE difference in the people who stay in the Lodge and RVs compared to the campers who will be most effected by the proposed reservation system changes.



Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: PacingTheCage on August 16, 2019, 02:03:08 PM
Speaking of government, money, confusion, etc I recall a trip to BiBe about 10 years ago.

I was at the Basin station requesting a Back Country Permit. An extremely kind volunteer was helping me. It was almost 4:00PM but we were done with the process with the exception of the volunteer taking my money.

A Ranger walked up and said “it’s 4PM. We’re closed. You’ll have to come back in the morning”.

The volunteer and I were stunned. The volunteer had my money in her hand. The Ranger handed it back to me and tore up the completed permit.

It was pointless to say anything. Clearly if the government agency who was taking my money was the IRS they would have gladly kept the register open and their hand out!

🤣🤣🤣


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Title: Re: Food for Thought: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: mule ears on August 16, 2019, 02:13:20 PM
Check these stats out.  They show the park is seeing a significant decline with respect to tent camping.  They are all percentage drops in "Total Overnight Stays" in the 3 most busy months;  November, December, and March.  So the question is WHY all of the sudden is there a need for increase in fees and a reservation system when CAMPING occupancy is trending down. 

             November 2018                          Dec 2018                        Mar 2019
Tents                                -10.9%                  -14.6                            -30.3
Backcountry                    -41.6%                   -43.9                           -25.6
Total overnight stays     -9.1%                      -11.4                          -24.3

Got the data here.  https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/Reports/Park/BIBE  Go to "Year to Date report" at the bottom for the report generator.

The only consistent increase in occupancy that keeps the "Total Overnight Stays" percentage number from dropping even lower is the Lodge and RV occupancy.  There's a HUGE difference in the people who stay in the Lodge and RVs compared to the campers who will be most effected by the proposed reservation system changes.

Remember that the Dec. 2018 figure is affected by Trump's shutdown.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: mule ears on August 16, 2019, 02:13:56 PM
Speaking of government, money, confusion, etc I recall a trip to BiBe about 10 years ago.

I was at the Basin station requesting a Back Country Permit. An extremely kind volunteer was helping me. It was almost 4:00PM but we were done with the process with the exception of the volunteer taking my money.

A Ranger walked up and said “it’s 4PM. We’re closed. You’ll have to come back in the morning”.

The volunteer and I were stunned. The volunteer had my money in her hand. The Ranger handed it back to me and tore up the completed permit.

It was pointless to say anything. Clearly if the government agency who was taking my money was the IRS they would have gladly kept the register open and their hand out!

🤣🤣🤣


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Now that is outrageous!   :pissed:
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: presidio on August 16, 2019, 02:14:41 PM
Quote
* Chisos Basin Campground: increase reservable sites to 2/3rds (#1-40), reservations available year-round, up to 6 months in advance.

Not everyone has a fixed schedule such that it all gets rigidly planned out.

Everyone needs to keep in mind several things:

a) The NPS hunger for money via fees is equivalent to whoring for crack cocaine. Cannot get enough and never will be satisfied. This was the predictable outcome of legislation that allows parks to locally keep a large percentage of the fees they generate. The more they charge, the more they can keep. This has nothing to do with workload. It has everything to do with revenue generation on the backs of users. The employee effort changes not one whit, only your cost for being able to enjoy a publicly-owned resource for which you must pay ever-increasing fees.

b) Fee increases always are couched in terms of "improving" the "customer" experience. Only problem is those improvements are awfully hard to see/use. But, rest assured, they are there even if invisible and imperceptible.

c) Consider the typical clientele the NPS is most interested in and caters to: the tourists who never get a quarter mile from any pavement. Folks who can plan months in advance for their special slice of "roughing" it. Folks who never care what it costs, yea, folks who are eager to pay whatever the NPS posits as necessary.

d) The backcountry user is just a victim of collateral damage from fee increases (merely another fee source to tap) even as they see nothing for their money. If the NPS used some of that money to expand backcountry roadside campsites it would very minimally approach being less objectionable. But, that doesn't happen because it's not about accommodating the visitor to/owner of public land, but about what the NPS in its sole authority deems appropriate.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: presidio on August 16, 2019, 02:19:52 PM
An extremely kind volunteer was helping me. It was almost 4:00PM but we were done with the process with the exception of the volunteer taking my money.

A Ranger walked up and said “it’s 4PM. We’re closed. You’ll have to come back in the morning”.

The volunteer had my money in her hand. The Ranger handed it back to me and tore up the completed permit.

It was pointless to say anything.

I would have demanded to see a supervisor, right then.

The NPS lives in its own special world, fundamentally disconnected from reality (and no clue whatsoever about customer service). You can be sure that village idiot was laughing all the way home for his/her exquisite handling of a difficult situation.

The funny hat sits especially tight on many of them, restricting oxygen and blood flow to the brain.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: austin gorpchomper on August 16, 2019, 10:17:00 PM
Frankly, I don't find the prices unreasonable at all. Yes, they are a huge percentage increase. But we crossed that Rubicon when they started charging a park entrance fee. (I still remember being incensed at the Reagan administration for charging a fee to enter my beloved BBNP.) But the price is a bargain, easily comparable to other western parks.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: presidio on August 17, 2019, 11:28:27 PM
Frankly, I don't find the prices unreasonable at all. Yes, they are a huge percentage increase.

This is exactly the reaction the NPS relies upon for acceptance of their fee schemes.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Flash on August 19, 2019, 09:13:15 AM
With regard to Zone Camping, I did not see anything new other than the significant fee increase. Did I miss the mention of any additional benefit such as advanced online permitting or are we still subject to the 10-minute personal lecture during NPS business hours?  :eusa_think: Up until now, living far away, I have had to plan my trips such that I arrive at the Visitor Center either very early the second day or late in the day the first. Advanced permitting for zone camping would allow a greater flexibility in making plans.

- Flash
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: VivaTerlingua on August 19, 2019, 02:56:53 PM
I completely understand that sentiment, but there is also a downside.  People start reserving sites farther and farther in advance and then you end up having to plan a trip months in advance.

Just buy the DVD and have the vicarious experience of watching others enjoy the things you used to be able to do when over-regulation was not the norm.

In the 70s a group of us arrived at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Summer season was well underway. Five minutes after parking we walked into the ranger station. Five minutes later we walked out with a multiday permit for the Inner Gorge. Thirty minutes after that we were on the trail.

Today? Good luck getting anything without meticulous planning and having numerous alternatives.

Try getting a permit to hike Havasu Falls.  They're gone the first day they become available.  So you have to pick your date in February, if you can even get a permit.  I'm not sure what the answer is when you have more people than permits but spontaneity is gone.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: presidio on August 19, 2019, 04:05:19 PM
I'm not sure what the answer is when you have more people than permits but spontaneity is gone.

It's what you get when you go to structured/managed/controlled outdoor experiences (places under the thumb of the NPS and places like Havasu).

The answer is to go to the unstructured places....BLM & USFS, where the "services" (of the hand-holding and entertainment variety) are non-existent, but the quality of the experience is vastly better with at least as good scenery and, generally, no people clogging up everything.

Not to mention, you also do not need permits and don't have to be lectured (though there unfortunately are a tiny number of BLM/USFS places pretending to be like the NPS). Just avoid those few and go have fun.

Self-sufficiency, initiative and common sense are necessary, but there are oodles of spontaneity in the offing.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: DeserTrek on August 19, 2019, 04:25:24 PM
Unfortunately, Texas doesn't have such a thing : (
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: presidio on August 19, 2019, 05:17:16 PM
Unfortunately, Texas doesn't have such a thing : (

Actually, you do.

Go to the national forests in east TX. Or the national forests in eastern Oklahoma/western Arkansas. Outside of hunting season you will have the entire place to yourself. If you even encounter a USFS ranger it will be a contact free of what you experience in NPS areas. You will be a public land user, not a suspect.

And, for anyone in most parts of TX, it is no farther (and in more than a few cases closer) to the BLM/USFS land in SE New Mexico than it is to Big Bend. Go where you want, camp where you want...permit and hassle free. Encountering agency employees there is a rare event. Again, you will be very unlikely to encounter other users.

Expand your horizons. Stop standing in permit lines, paying fees, getting lectured, and repeatedly hiking the OML, and go see places you've never been to.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Jalco on August 19, 2019, 07:17:24 PM
Unfortunately, Texas doesn't have such a thing : (

Actually, you do.

Go to the national forests in east TX. Or the national forests in eastern Oklahoma/western Arkansas. Outside of hunting season you will have the entire place to yourself. If you even encounter a USFS ranger it will be a contact free of what you experience in NPS areas. You will be a public land user, not a suspect.

And, for anyone in most parts of TX, it is no farther (and in more than a few cases closer) to the BLM/USFS land in SE New Mexico than it is to Big Bend. Go where you want, camp where you want...permit and hassle free. Encountering agency employees there is a rare event. Again, you will be very unlikely to encounter other users.

Expand your horizons. Stop standing in permit lines, paying fees, getting lectured, and repeatedly hiking the OML, and go see places you've never been to.

Presidio makes a good point.  From my house in Round Rock, I can drive to Panther Junction in 7.5 hours.  In the same amount of time I can drive to Eagle Rock Loop trailhead in Arkansas.  No permits, no crowds, LOTS of water, trees from which to swing a hammock, and I can build a nice fire at night.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: steelfrog on August 19, 2019, 08:19:57 PM
Good Lord. This thread is reminding me why I left this board for years. Probably time to do so again.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: DeserTrek on August 19, 2019, 08:39:30 PM
West Texas is just more appealing to me. I've been interested in exploring Aldo Leopold NM though. That said, having the ability to go wherever/whenever I want is way more enjoyable. The vast majority of my backpacking has been through Southern Utah, so you could imagine the let down I faced whenever I discovered BIBE's permit system.

Im not going to lie... Whenever I hear there is a government shut down on the horizon, I have my bags packed and ready to go  :crossedfingers:
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: presidio on August 19, 2019, 09:06:50 PM
Whenever I hear there is a government shut down on the horizon, I have my bags packed and ready to go  :crossedfingers:

During the last shutdown, when the NPS areas were being buried under mountains of trash and literal crap by the "experienced outsdoorspeople" the agency caters to controls, the public lands and wilderness areas of BLM and the USFS were unaffected and functioned as they do every day...completely normally. People came and went without asking for or needing/receiving permission, or creating the kinds of problems the NPS attracts as the default result of the peculiarly helpless clientele they attract.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: elhombre on August 19, 2019, 09:22:56 PM
Good Lord. This thread is reminding me why I left this board for years. Probably time to do so again.

Gotta be strong , Bro.  You're here for the same reason most all of us are here.  We wish we were in Big Bend RIGHT NOW!    :great:
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: backpacker56 on August 20, 2019, 08:25:31 AM
Good Lord. This thread is reminding me why I left this board for years. Probably time to do so again.

It's the dog days of summer.  What we need are some trip reports.  Even old ones.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Lissa on August 20, 2019, 11:38:38 AM
Good Lord. This thread is reminding me why I left this board for years. Probably time to do so again.

Please don’t go! I’m planning this BB100 trip and having seen your posts now want to do a one day OML so would really appreciate your advice.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: poor_camper on August 22, 2019, 06:47:54 PM
After reading through the discussion here, I was inspired to send my comments regarding the proposed fee increases and the (proposed?) new reservation system.  Pro or con, yes or no, for or against, I hope this might provide thought for further civil discussion and inspire others, regardless of opinion, to let the NPS know how they feel as well.

As mentioned elsewhere, the deadline for accepting public comment ends at midnight Mountain Time September 15th, 2019:
https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=29&projectID=89876&documentID=97822


Oh, and August 25 is an entrance fee free day!

Big Bend National Park will waive its entrance fee on five days in 2019.  The five entrance fee-free days will be:
    Monday, January 21 - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
    Saturday, April 20 - Start of National Park Week/National Junior Ranger Day
    Sunday, August 25 - NPS Anniversary
    Saturday, September 28 - National Public Lands Day
    Monday, November 11 - Veterans Day
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Flash on August 22, 2019, 09:48:34 PM
Something to try not to misunderstand: There is no new online reservation system being proposed that I can tell. Instead, best I understand from reading it, apart from the fee increases, they are proposing adding some roadside sites, some Chisos designated sites, plus some additional front country campsites (i.e. RGV and Chisos) to the the existing recreation.gov website. End of story.
- Flash
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: poor_camper on August 23, 2019, 06:08:15 AM
Something to try not to misunderstand: There is no new online reservation system being proposed that I can tell. Instead, best I understand from reading it, apart from the fee increases, they are proposing adding some roadside sites, some Chisos designated sites, plus some additional front country campsites (i.e. RGV and Chisos) to the the existing recreation.gov website. End of story.
- Flash

Yes, I understand that Reserve .gov is already is in place.  But for issuing BBNP backcountry permits, it is a system that has never been used before.  It is a new system "for issuing backcountry permits".

I don't think Reserve.gov can handle a single flat rate price for reservations with varying lengths of days.  The side effect is that there is an mandatory price hike for multiple day back country permits if that system is used.  I suspect that's the major reason that they decided to start charging on a daily basis.

It seems it's a bit of putting the square peg in a round hole.  I wish they could accommodate flat rate pricing and a few other issues.  But on the positive side, being able to know you have a camp site before making the drive is really helpful.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Jalco on August 23, 2019, 07:32:48 AM
Being able to know you have a camp site before making the drive out would be really helpful.

TPWD seems to have no problem with this.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: poor_camper on August 23, 2019, 03:45:03 PM
Being able to know you have a camp site before making the drive out would be really helpful.

TPWD seems to have no problem with this.

Fortunately, I was always able to reserve/pay for my TPWD campsite at their visitor center when I paid my entrance fee.  But that was years ago.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, 2 days left for comment
Post by: elhombre on September 13, 2019, 12:00:43 PM
Here is my comment sent to the park after talking to the guy on the phone there.  I found out the reservation.gov system charges $6 for every permit when they use the system.  The rest of the money goes to the park.  A 6 day trip that got the park $12, will now get the park $66 form the permit system.  This is their "modest" increase.  They also don't have any idea how often the back country car sites go vacant, but have a permit pulled for them.  They want to put these same sites under the new system not knowing any specifics about occupancy.  Other words, no way of knowing the effect of the new policy.  Please get off y'alls butt and write your comment this weekend.  My lazy ass did.   It closes Sunday at midnight.


The proposed fee/reservation changes are a bad idea.  First, a park rep that I talked to said y'all do not know how many paid reservations in the Basin go unused due to "no-shows".  We have all seen sites go unused for multiple nights with a "reserved" tag under the clip.  This percentage of unused nights should be a well known consideration because when the proposed system takes over more sites, there will be an increase in paid for vacant "no-show" sites.  Those unused reserved sites lock out more drive up campers.  Overall, the campground sites will be less used under the reservation system due to the inevitable "no-shows".
   The rep I talked to on the phone said that y'all try to contact all no-shows the next day to see if they are coming.  The campground will then open up the spot if they aren't.  I asked what if they are unable to get in contact with them?  In that case, the park leaves it reserved and unused.  I asked where I can find this policy, and I was told it is written somewhere. Seems to me that this is a pretty important facet to campground management, and should be easily found somewhere by the public.  It should be the responsibility of the people showing up late to notify the park somehow to keep their reservation valid, not the other way around.  If they don't, then they loose the spot, and they can carry a "credit" for their money, just like it works at the Grand Canyon.
    In order to address the problem of people driving in and not getting a site, why don't y'all return to a system that includes a web page with ALL the sites and vacancies of those sites? Just like it was back with the older electronic system.  If people had that critical information on their phones when driving into the park, they would KNOW their chances of getting sites.  Right now, travelers only learn of campsite vacancies when they are IN the park.  Y'all have created this problem yourselves by removing the old system.  If your response is we don't have the manpower to keep up with this information, then why isn't this a priority during peak times?
   Y'all also create the long line problem by forcing everyone into the "back country permit office"  at PJ.  This is contrary to your own Compendium. Why not do what the Compendium dictates and have back country permits available at Persimmon, and also possibly set a trailer up at Maverick during peak times?  It's an electronic system.  It is OK to access it from different locations.
     In 1999, it cost my family $10 entrance fee, and maybe a $10 permit fee.  $20 total for 10 days.  20 years later, under the new system, the same trip will cost $60 entrance fee (2 weeks), and $120 permit fee.  Total of $180. Out here in the non-government economy, the difference between $20 and $180 is not a moderate increase.  At this rate, in 20 more years when my daughter takes my grand kids, it will cost $180 entrance fee and $360 permit fee.  Total $540 Wow!  I ask the rep on the phone about this, and he said something to the affect that "well, we just made those numbers up for the proposal."  Classic response. 
  So what does the public get with the changes?  We still will have long lines at PJ for permits because people will travel in hoping they get a cancellation spot or one of the 1/3rd of sites not controlled by the reservation system.  They will still be pissed off because they drove all the way into the park not knowing the availability of sites, and don't secure one.  More sites will go unused due to the inevitable "no-shows".  The camping public will loose the ability to change their plans due to weather windows because sites will be locked up in the reservation system and unavailable to the guy standing at the permit counter.
     The problem is not an occupancy problem.  People are coming in droves to go camping.  The problem is how y'all dole those sites out.  People are pissed because they have no information on campsite availability until they are told face to face by a ranger, "Sorry, Parks Full".  The expensive proposed changes do nothing to address this problem.  In fact, it decreases site availability.     
     What do we get get for the extra expense?  Y'all have erroneously combined the need for a better permit system with the need for more money to improve facilities the park.  If you need more money to fix things, that is an issue with funding from the Department of Interior, not the users of the product. 
     Please strongly consider changing the park's publicly reviewable camp site occupancy information system FIRST.  This is the number one problem with the permit system.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Flash on September 13, 2019, 12:40:25 PM
Good comment, El Hombre!  :great:
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, 2 days left for comment
Post by: presidio on September 13, 2019, 01:05:51 PM
100% spot on. Other specific comments follow.

A 6 day trip that got the park $12, will now get the park $66 form the permit system.  This is their "modest" increase.

'Modest' in the NPS is an oxymoron for 'out-of-touch-with-reality.'

Quote
They want to put these same sites under the new system not knowing any specifics about occupancy.  Other words, no way of knowing the effect of the new policy.

A quote from an observer of such matters: 'The facts (and especially the lack of same...my editorial on the above), although interesting, are irrelevant. – Unknown

Quote
Please get off y'alls butt and write your comment this weekend.

I already did, some time ago. However, no one should be surprised when their comments have zero effect upon the outcome. Or, a claimed 'win' for the public as they roll back the proposal, but still lay a sizable increase on the public (because the NPS 'heard' you). This has happened repeatedly and occurred 15 or so years ago just up the road at GUMO. The NPS method is to perfunctorily comply with the requirement for public 'involvement' without actually listening to the public, and then doing what they planned all along.

Quote
The rep I talked to on the phone said that y'all try to contact all no-shows the next day to see if they are coming.  I asked what if they are unable to get in contact with them?  In that case, the park leaves it reserved and unused.

This is very simply solved. If the no-show does not appear by noon on the second day, the reservation automatically is forfeited. It should not be the duty of the agency to make efforts to personally contact (holding their hand) each person. In the event the reserving party shows up after the cancellation, they get treated like any other first-come, first-serve arrival.

Quote
I asked where I can find this policy, and I was told it is written somewhere.

This also should surprise no one. As we've seen before, the NPS makes stuff up on the fly. When pressed, they cannot validate some things they do that are claimed to be 'policy.' Unofficial acts easily morph into 'unwritten' policy as employees don't know where it comes from, and don't question it, but accept practices at face value because 'that's the way it's done.' I seriously doubt it is 'written somewhere,' but the NPS is encouraged to prove me wrong.

Quote
  It should be the responsibility of the people showing up late to notify the park somehow to keep their reservation valid, not the other way around.  If they don't, then they loose the spot, and they can carry a "credit" for their money, just like it works at the Grand Canyon.

Yes it is a responsibility of the reserving party. However, I disagree they should get a blanket credit. If they exercise responsibility and cancel before noon of the second day, I have no problem with them getting a credit or even a refund for everything but the first night. If they don't call and cancel, their entire fee should be forfeited. Bad behavior does not change until there are consequences for same. Rewarding bad behavior only guarantees it will continue.

Quote
Y'all also create the long line problem by forcing everyone into the "back country permit office"  at PJ.  This is contrary to your own Compendium.

The Compendium is there to control the public. NPS compliance with their own rules clearly are optional at best (again, no consequences accrue against the NPS for not following what they say they will do).

Quote
In 1999, it cost my family $10 entrance fee, and maybe a $10 permit fee. $20 total for 10 days. 20 years later, under the new system, the same trip will cost $60 entrance fee (2 weeks), and $120 permit fee.

This is the ugly reality of what grew out of the temporary fee demonstration nonsense that became enshrined under the current recreation fee law. As I've noted before, this was perceived as 'free' money. However, neither they nor the various support and environmental groups had enough brain cells to understand that appropriated funds would be significantly reduced as the test inevitably would be deemed a 'success' regardless of whether it actually was or not. So, here we are.

Quote
Out here in the non-government economy, the difference between $20 and $180 is not a moderate increase. I ask the rep on the phone about this, and he said something to the affect that "well, we just made those numbers up for the proposal."  Classic response. 

Do we see a pattern here? Certainly. More remarkably, in an unguarded moment, you got the actual truth of how they do business.

Quote
So what does the public get with the changes?  We still will have long lines at PJ for permits because people will travel in hoping they get a cancellation spot or one of the 1/3rd of sites not controlled by the reservation system.

You can hope there's still 1/3rd not under the reservation system. Krumenaker made it pretty clear in the Texas Monthly interview (another unguarded moment?).

'We’re going to put either all or the vast majority of campsites on a reservation system. We’re going to start with reservations for much more of the front-country campground sites, the most popular drive-in sites, and the majority of the Chisos backpacking sites. Backcountry fees will go to a per-night fee but still be reasonable.'

Quote
They will still be pissed off because they drove all the way into the park not knowing the availability of sites, and don't secure one.  More sites will go unused due to the inevitable "no-shows".  The camping public will loose the ability to change their plans due to weather windows because sites will be locked up in the reservation system and unavailable to the guy standing at the permit counter.

Does anyone believe the NPS is concerned about accommodating the public? A preponderance of evidence says they are not. It's all about what the NPS wants, not about the users needs/desires.

Quote
What do we get get for the extra expense?  Y'all have erroneously combined the need for a better permit system with the need for more money to improve facilities the park.  If you need more money to fix things, that is an issue with funding from the Department of Interior, not the users of the product.

And that is precisely what the NPS cannot fathom.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Casa Grande on September 13, 2019, 10:07:32 PM
Well said, El Hombre.   Honestly, I was kind of on the fence about the increase, but I think you're right.

Sent from my pocket machine using Big Bend Chat mobile app (http://r.tapatalk.com/byo?rid=88143)

Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Al on September 14, 2019, 03:52:16 AM
Well said, El Hombre.   Honestly, I was kind of on the fence about the increase, but I think you're right.

Sent from my pocket machine using Big Bend Chat mobile app (http://r.tapatalk.com/byo?rid=88143)

Is there a Cliff Note version for the simple among us of whom I may know?
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: DesertRatShorty on September 14, 2019, 08:29:12 AM
The fee increase for back country camping is huge.  From $12 per permit to $12 per night!  That's ridiculous!

If I read it correctly it will not apply to the sites you usually prefer like along the OOR and Fresno.  Equally it doesn't look like it will apply to zone camping which I almost always do.  It makes some sense to charge more for the heavily used roadside sites and the Chisos backcountry sites.

I will be contacting them to check on all of the above though.
Has it been determined whether the proposed increases will also apply to zone camping?

Sent from my SM-G930V using Big Bend Chat mobile app (http://r.tapatalk.com/byo?rid=88143)

Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: poor_camper on September 14, 2019, 08:34:06 AM
Well said, El Hombre.   Honestly, I was kind of on the fence about the increase, but I think you're right.

Sent from my pocket machine using Big Bend Chat mobile app (http://r.tapatalk.com/byo?rid=88143)

I argued some of the same points as El Hombre in my feedback to the park.



Re: Proposed Changes to Camping Reservations and Fees
Big Bend National Park News Release of August 15, 2019
Page 1 of 8

Summary
The proposed fee increase for BBNP should not be adopted because:
  1. It inhibits visitor diversity and discriminates against poorer minorities contrary to stated NPS goals for national parks.
  2. It produces only a miniscule revenue stream to offset its claimed purpose of reducing the maintenance backlog.
  3. It discourages families with children who can only afford camping within the park in order to avoid lodging and meal costs. Education of children is another NPS goal.
  4. There have already been recent park fee increases. This proposal would result in the public shouldering the burden, within the past five years, of two backcountry fee increases for a 149% surge for the average backcountry permit, and a developed campground fee increase of 14%, both after already absorbing a 50% increase of entrance fees in the same timeframe. The Cost of Living Index has risen only 7% in the comparable years.
  5. It is unwarranted for backcountry permits because those sites require very little of the maintenance backlog monies for which the fee increase has been justified.
  6. It contributes to ever spiraling fees by using commercial outside-the-park camping rates (usually higher than the NPS rates) as justification for NPS fee increases, which then encourages camp providers outside the park to do likewise, which leads to the next NPS justification for a fee increase.
  7. It forces visitors to bear the cost burden of the NPS decision to implement a camping reservation system that has ongoing charges.

Further details, comments, and references can be found below.

Thank you in advance for your thoughtful consideration.

Respectfully,
A concerned camper



Re: Proposed Changes to Camping Reservations and Fees
Big Bend National Park News Release of August 15, 2019
Page 2 of 8

Item 1
Reference 1A
From https://www.npr.org/2016/03/09/463851006/dont-care-about-national-parks-the-park-service-needs-you-to
The National Park Service overall has a diversity problem. There were a record 307.2 million visits to U.S. national parks in 2015, and it's fair to say that the majority of those visitors were white. The National Park Service doesn't track the demographics of its visitors, but the most recent survey commissioned by the Park Service to see how different population groups related to the parks found that 9 percent of American visitors were Hispanic. African-Americans accounted for 7 percent. Asian-Americans were 3 percent. Collectively, minorities made up just over 20 percent of the visitors to national parks, despite the fact that they made up nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population.
Some of the reasons were universal: the cost is prohibitive?

Fees are too high at NPS units
    All  White  Hispanic  Black  Asian  Am. Indian
Park visitors  20%  18%  32%  25%  4%  37%
Non-visitors   28%  24%  40%  33%  28%  5%

The hotel and food costs at National Park System units are too high
    All  White  Hispanic  Black  Asian  Am. Indian
Park visitors  36%  33%  47%  54%  40%  59%
Non-visitors   46%  40%  59%  56%  43%  28%


Reference 1B
From https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/north-america/united-states/national-parks-service-entrance-fee-increase-spd/
It disproportionately affects families of color," said Gabe Vasquez. He's the New Mexico coordinator for Latino Outdoors, a group that helps Latino communities get outside.



Re: Proposed Changes to Camping Reservations and Fees
Big Bend National Park News Release of August 15, 2019
Page 3 of 8

Communities of color have been historically underrepresented at national parks. Whether barred by the cost of reaching and entering parks or deterred by a sense that they don't belong, minorities are consistently only a fraction of annual park attendance.
"This would be yet another obstacle for us to fight," said Teresa Baker. In her free time, Baker helps run the African American Nature and Parks Experience, an organization that brings communities of color to national, state, and local parks as a means of spreading passion for conservation.



Re: Proposed Changes to Camping Reservations and Fees
Big Bend National Park News Release of August 15, 2019
Page 4 of 8

Item 2
Reference 2A
From https://americanhiking.org/advocacy/national-park-fee-increase/
[At the national level] If the NPS put towards the maintenance backlog the entirety of the estimated $70 million/year in additional revenue to be gained from fee increases, it would take at least 170 years to clear up that log jam.
Unfortunately, the backlog is now so monstrous (4 times the annual NPS budget) that there is probably no way that the federal government could tackle it on its own, but no one is helping the problem by making visitors pay more to little effect while simultaneously decreasing government funding.
So you might say, ?Well, I support my parks, so I am willing to pay a bigger fee to help defray costs, even if it only makes a small difference.? I agree -- so am I. But, again, that?s not really the point. Here?s what I think is the crux of the issue:
  1. Increased entrance fees are unlikely to make much of a dent in the $12 billion backlog. The NPS, Congress, and the private sector are going to have to get creative and hash out a strategy that brings real, sustainable money to the table.
  2. For low income families that are regular visitors to a local NPS site, increased fees could actually become prohibitive, even if they are unlikely to monetarily affect middle income families that can afford a trip to a far away park.
  3. Raising fees also has an intangible effect on groups that have traditionally been disenfranchised in one way or another from enjoying our national parks.

That last one might seem less concrete, but it is nevertheless important. For various reasons too complex to go into here (e.g., see this and this), people of color, while supportive of the national park system, have often felt excluded from it and make up a much smaller percentage of park visitors than their percentage of the general American population would imply. The cost of an entrance fee is not the biggest reason for that sense of being an outsider, but it is a reason. Increasing the fee only adds yet another barrier to diversity in park visitors.



Re: Proposed Changes to Camping Reservations and Fees
Big Bend National Park News Release of August 15, 2019
Page 5 of 8

Item 3
Reference 3A
From https://www.nps.gov/bibe/learn/news/proposed-changes-to-camping-reservations-and-fees.htm
?Camping fees remain a small percentage of the total cost of a Big Bend vacation? ? NPS Newsletter

Not so; not for a backcountry camping vacation. The contract the BBNP NPS has negotiated with their Concessionaire has a current rate (with taxes) of $166.11 for a Rio Grande room in the Basin. Currently a backcountry campsite (regardless of the number of days or people) is $12. For an average 2.5 day Backcountry permit, the difference in lodging alone is $390, not to mention the significant cost savings of bring one?s own food for meals. Lodging and meals are the significant contributors to a vacation in BBNP, but only if they are used. Backcountry camping avoids those expenses so the proposed camping fee increase becomes a much larger part of these cost effective Big Bend vacations.
This justification from the NPS newsletter fee increases is specious. It appears that NPS?s logic is ?As long as you?re spending a lot of money anyway, you should not mind giving us more.? Using the same logic, campers could argue ?The revenue generated by this increase is such a small percentage of the maintenance backlog, the NPS should not mind forgoing the proposed fee increase.?

Any NPS increase ought to stand on its own merits.

Reference 3B
From https://www.nps.gov/bibe/learn/news/proposed-changes-to-camping-reservations-and-fees.htm
Campsite Fee Changes To offset reservation service costs, more closely match other campsites in the area, and provide improved customer service, the park is proposing modest increases to fees for backcountry permits, developed campgrounds, and group sites. Revenue will be utilized to provide the contracted online reservation service through www.recreation.gov, improve camping and other visitor facilities parkwide, and reduce Big Bend?s $90 million backlog of deferred maintenance.

The visitors are now asked not only to pay more for camping permits (on the average), but also to pay for the administrative tool the NPS has decided to force campers to use for reservations. This should be an NPS administrative expense, not a continuing visitor obligation.

Increasing an average backcountry permit by 148% (from $12 to $28.49) or a maximum 14 day permit by 1,225% (from $12 to $168) is not a modest increase.



Re: Proposed Changes to Camping Reservations and Fees
Big Bend National Park News Release of August 15, 2019
Page 6 of 8

The 80% of the proposed backcountry fee increase BBNP would be eligible to keep would contribute only 0.0826% yearly to the maintenance backlog, less than one-tenth of one percent. These visitor fee increases are not the solution to clearing the maintenance backlog.

Using out-of-park camping rates to justify park camping fees will inevitably lead to a never ending ratcheting of fees as private camp providers will then use the new park fees as justification to raise their rates.



Re: Proposed Changes to Camping Reservations and Fees
Big Bend National Park News Release of August 15, 2019
Page 7 of 8

Item 7
While working toward a new online campsite reservations tool for remote visitors is an admirable step in the right direction for improved customer service, there are certain aspects to be considered:
  1. Before implementing a new reservation system, NPS must ensure there is a way for visitors to cancel a reservation.
    a. This ability is a firm requirement if the NPS is truly concerned about customer service. It is difficult to plan one?s life to the day 6 months in advance. Cancellations and changes will be inevitable. Much like the standard ability hotels have for online reservation modifications, the same should apply here. One survey estimates a 40% cancellation rate for hotel reservations. Changes to reservation dates would push that rate even higher.
    b. Early cancellations should result in full refunds. If the NPS expects the visitor to shoulder the burden of the cost of this new system, the visitors should have the right to expect the system to work in a fair manner. The system should handle date changes online without charge if made reasonably in advance of the original reservation date.
    c. One fear is that if visitors do not cancel, campsites will be booked well in advance but be left empty should a visitor be unable to stay with the original booking dates. Empty but unavailable campsites will not be well received by the public.
  2. The new reservation system should be able to handle changes to the selection of campsites, just as is possible today with hand written Ranger issued backcountry permits.
  3. It should remain an option for visitors so desiring to request and pay for a camping permit at a Visitor Center. This is especially true for those groups who may be unaware of the online system or for disadvantaged groups who have limited or no internet access or skills.
  4. Will hand written permits be available from ALL Visitor Centers as required by the 2019 Compendium?
  5. Will the NPS make available computers with internet access for visitors who show up in person without campsite reservations and do not have the means to access Recreation.gov? Or will Rangers handle that online transaction on behalf of visitors?
  6. Will unreserved campsites that are part of Recreation.gov still be available for use by visitors who appear in person to request a Ranger written permit? If not, excluding these sites would be discriminatory to minority groups unable to use the online reservation tool.
  7. How will the NPS enforce the 14/28 day camping limits per year as stated in the Compendium if permit data is fragmented. Does this rule no longer apply?
  8. The system should be able to handle the occasional ?solo hiker? information sheet at backcountry roadside sites. Visitor safety should be a top priority, especially for those camping alone.
  9. If the system is expanded to include zone camping and/or river permits in the future, the NPS should consider a flat rate for these permit types instead of a by-the-day fee.
    a. These permits are often longer than average in length (e.g., a Lower Canyons trip of 7 to 10 or more days). A fee growth of 600% to over 1,000% for such a trip is unacceptable.



Re: Proposed Changes to Camping Reservations and Fees
Big Bend National Park News Release of August 15, 2019
Page 8 of 8

    b. Zone and River camping contributes little to the park maintenance backlog, and these permits should not be charged by the day.
10. As a minimum, the new system and NPS policies should be as flexible as are currently available with hand written Ranger issued permits.
11. In general, the NPS need to be more transparent about the full capabilities and limitations of the proposed reservation system prior to its deployment. There are often unintended consequences when making a major change without detailed public input. It is impossible to comment in any meaningful way about the merits of a new system without being given the full specifications and capabilities of the proposed online tool and the corresponding new policies and procedures the NPS will undertake if it is deployed. To truly enhance customer service, the NPS should first solicit public input to establish the requirements and policies visitors wish to see for a new campsite reservation system. Unfortunately, it appears that is not the NPS plan.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: presidio on September 14, 2019, 12:36:39 PM
All your points are well-taken. The public is (and should be) very concerned. The NPS, on the other hand, operates in an echo chamber and hears nothing but their own grand ideas, unanchored to reality.

1. It inhibits visitor diversity and discriminates against poorer minorities contrary to stated NPS goals for national parks.

The NPS constantly spews concern about diversity. It all is lip-service, as their actions demonstrate little action to correct the imbalance.

Quote
6. It contributes to ever spiraling fees by using commercial outside-the-park camping rates (usually higher than the NPS rates) as justification for NPS fee increases, which then encourages camp providers outside the park to do likewise, which leads to the next NPS justification for a fee increase.

It's both worse and more simple than that. The NPS operates a round-robin scheme. One park raises entry fees and/or camping/use fees. Then, the other parks follow along using the 'justification' that increases are necessary to maintain parity among parks. It is a never-ending cycle. Yes, commercial providers hitch a ride on that logic but the impact on NPS fees mostly is an internal mechanism of parks keeping up with each other. Given that the NPS provides none of the amenities to be found in commercial campgrounds (often at rates similar to NPS fees for lesser facilities), no direct comparison of cost is possible.

Quote
This justification from the NPS newsletter fee increases is specious. It appears that NPS?s logic is ?As long as you?re spending a lot of money anyway, you should not mind giving us more.?

There are more than a few park users who have zero problem with fee increases and occasionally some can be found who are very willing to pay whatever the NPS thinks is fair. There's a lot of subtext in this attitude: the carefully concealed effect of keeping out the riff-raff, and reducing the user load so the eager payors can have less congestion and competition for facilities and services (and a more 'pure' experience).

Of course, as others have noted, such actions only lead to a continuous downward spiral as increased fees result in fewer people willing to pay the tolls to use their public land, which leads to increased fees as revenue declines....ad naseum.

Quote
The 80% of the proposed backcountry fee increase BBNP would be eligible to keep would contribute only 0.0826% yearly to the maintenance backlog, less than one-tenth of one percent. These visitor fee increases are not the solution to clearing the maintenance backlog.

As I noted in an earlier reply, 'The facts, although interesting, are irrelevant. – Unknown. The NPS dangles the premise the increase will have an effect on maintenance, so the uninformed will believe the extra money they pay actually will mean something.

Quote
To truly enhance customer service, the NPS should first solicit public input to establish the requirements and policies visitors wish to see for a new campsite reservation system. Unfortunately, it appears that is not the NPS plan.

Genuinely consulting the public for input most definitely is not the plan. Never has been, never will.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: mule ears on September 15, 2019, 03:31:50 PM
Only about 10 more hours to get your comments in.  Here is what I sent:

Thank you for the opportunity to give input on the proposed camping changes.  I understand the frustrations of people driving a long way to the park and not being able to find front country campsites and can agree to both increasing the number allowed to be reserved in advance and an increase in fees to do so.  My main concern is with the recreation.gov site and the potential abuse of it with people reserving sites and not showing up to use them which would in effect actually reduce the number of sites available to the general public not increase them.

Do you have any good data on how many sites are now reserved online and how many are no shows?  What is the policy for opening up sites that have no shows?  I think that people who do that kind of thing should lose their sites and pay the fees they would have owed.  No refunds for no shows and limited for cancellations.

Likewise I can also see opening the most used backcountry roadside sites to online reservations, these are, in reality, front country sites just with fewer amenities than the three campgrounds.  The fees should be slightly lower but I have the same abuse of the system concerns.

As a backpacker in the park for over 45 years I cannot agree with both opening the Chisos sites to advanced reservations or the enormous fee increase for a permit.  The whole reason for no permits being issued more than 24 hours in advance is the harsh nature of the Big Bend backcountry and the need for most people to have some kind of guidance and discussion of their backpacking plans with a ranger or volunteer.  I would speculate that most people coming to the park to backpack are first timers and first time desert hikers who need guidance, this is a classic ranger interpretive/education job and cannot be substituted by a reservation system.  Backpacking is not the same as car camping.

The proposed reservation system might help in reducing the number of permits having to be written for roadside sites but people will still have to have permits written for backpacking trips as each one will be slightly different and just being able to reserve the Chisos sites will not reduce the need for rangers to write permits for an Outer Mountain Loop hike or any other backpack that might or might not include a stay in the Chisos. 

While $12 for a permit of up to 14 days is probably the lowest in the entire NPS system, at least for major parks, the proposed increase is not “reasonable” and to charge the same per night for a person who carries their camp in on their back as someone who drives up to a site (with a bear box) is ludicrous.  Most parks have either per-site-per-night or per-person-per-night fees and many have a cap.  I think the most reasonable is a fixed fee per permit for simplicity.  Increase it to say $36, a 3X increase but do not make it open ended.  Most of my trips are now zone or wilderness camping of 6 or 7 nights, which would make my permit $72 or $84, that is a huge increase for no additional services.

If you do go to a backpacking reservation system it should include the whole park and should use the software system like Zion or Great Smoky Mountains use, they work well and are easy to use.  With Zion’s system you can reserve but you still have to pick up your permit in person which gives the double check needed in a place like Big Bend.  Do not use recreation.gov for backpacking reservations.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: steelfrog on September 15, 2019, 03:45:48 PM
Are they proposing that zone permits also will be issued by online reservation system?  And/or will experience an increase fee?

If not, won't affect me much.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: elhombre on September 15, 2019, 05:35:21 PM
Just checked my e-mail and this is what the government representative wrote back to me.  YoungHiker (my daughter) read both messages and stated : "From the way they worded their response, it seems like they don't care what the public thinks, they are just going to do what they want and implement the new system."        :great:

Greetings from Big Bend National Park.
Thank you for taking the time and providing input on the park service's proposed changes to Big Bend reservations and camping fees.

I do have a couple of clarifications regarding concerns mentioned in your comments

1. Campground reservations at Big Bend are managed online through recreation.gov. When visitors reserve a campsite for park campgrounds, they sometimes arrive late in the day or in the evening. Their site is held for the first 24 hours. Typically the visitors let the park know they are late, or that they are on their way and will be there the next day. In that case the sites are held. If no contact is made, during busy times, those sites are released. Refunds are processed through Recreation.gov.

2. The proposed amenity fee changes were derived through a comparison study of similar camping options in the surrounding area, and other regional national park sites. It is NPS policy to regularly review fee structures at each park, and make sure that offerings are in line with other similar opportunities.

3. One of the many advantages of having campsites reservable online through Recreation.gov is that the public can access the site and see which sites are reserved and which sites are available 24/7 in real time. This proposal would increase the numbers of reservable campsites and expand the "reservable" season at the two busiest campgrounds, facilitating park visitors in planning their vacation and ensuring that they have a place to camp. 

Thanks again for your input,


1.  Didn't clarify anything.  I asked for the published policy on "no-shows" and you gave me "during busy times, those sites are released".  What is a busy time?  When are they release?

2.Where exactly in the Big Bend region  are there federally funded campgrounds that the comparison can be made with?  You mentioned Canyonlands as being in the area on the phone.  Well, it's $30 for up to a 14 day permit there, not $168.  In the area?

3.  You really need to list some of these "many advantages".  You have only stated the one obvious thing a reserve system does.   If a system that gives the public up to date info on campsite vacancies is SOOO good, Why can't that be a stand alone feature like it was before?  Why does it have to be paired with reservations?  And at such a high price?

As we say on the trail "It Sucks to Suck."  So, Suck it public.  That's all folks!

Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: poor_camper on September 15, 2019, 07:31:16 PM
I suspect the main reason that backcountry permits will soon be charged on a daily basis is that recreation.gov probably cannot handle one price for a variable 1 to 14 day for a permit.  They've decided to force the square peg into the existing round hole.  No changes required to the existing reservation system that way.

Still haven't heard the official word on what the plan is for zone camping.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: presidio on September 15, 2019, 10:52:25 PM
YoungHiker (my daughter) read both messages and stated : "From the way they worded their response, it seems like they don't care what the public thinks, they are just going to do what they want and implement the new system."

Even the kids understand it. I rest my case.

Quote
Greetings from Big Bend National Park.
2. The proposed amenity fee changes were derived through a comparison study of ... other regional national park sites. It is NPS policy to regularly review fee structures at each park, and make sure that offerings are in line with other similar opportunities.

I refer you to the 'round robin' scheme I earlier described.

Quote
As we say on the trail "It Sucks to Suck."  So, Suck it public.  That's all folks!

Exactly!
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: DeserTrek on September 16, 2019, 09:57:53 AM
Say I was to go backpacking Mesa de Anguila, would that count as zone camping or backcountry camping? Last time I did this trail was during a shut down, so I was able to avoid the whole permit ordeal.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: mule ears on September 16, 2019, 11:10:30 AM
Say I was to go backpacking Mesa de Anguila, would that count as zone camping or backcountry camping? Last time I did this trail was during a shut down, so I was able to avoid the whole permit ordeal.

Right now zone camping but that is one of the big questions, under the new fee system will a zone permit be charged the same as the Chisos sites?
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: DeserTrek on September 16, 2019, 12:24:01 PM
Soo..... I just got off the phone with a ranger over at the Panther Junction Visitor Center. Under the new proposed system, Zone "Wilderness" camping will be treated the exact same as Backcountry camping. Permits will be issued $12 per a night.

I never thought I'd see the day where zone camping cost over $12 per night. Seriously though, last week I went backpacking in Gila NF and didn't have to deal with any of this money grabbing bs.  A $30 entrance fee + $84 (7 days) in camping permits. Way to rich for my blood.... Im not made of money and personally find it insulting to the public as a whole.

They can keep there hands out as long as they want... It ain't happening!    :eusa_hand:
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: Lance on September 16, 2019, 12:30:37 PM
Soo..... I just got off the phone with a ranger over at the Panther Junction Visitor Center. Under the new proposed system, Zone "Wilderness" camping will be treated the exact same as Backcountry camping. Permits will be issued $12 per a night.

I never thought I'd see the day where zone camping cost over $12 per night. Seriously though, last week I went backpacking in Gila NF and didn't have to deal with any of this money grabbing bs.  A $30 entrance fee + $84 (7 days) in camping permits. Way to rich for my blood.... Im not made of money and personally find it insulting to the public as a whole.

They can keep there hands out as long as they want... It ain't happening!    :eusa_hand:

Wow, $12 a night for zone camping?!? That's a pretty sharp increase from before, especially for multi-day backpacking trips. No point in complaining or commenting though. Like YoungHiker already said, they're going to do what they want regardless of what we say. They always have.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: presidio on September 17, 2019, 03:34:49 PM
Soo..... I just got off the phone with a ranger over at the Panther Junction Visitor Center. Under the new proposed system, Zone "Wilderness" camping will be treated the exact same as Backcountry camping. Permits will be issued $12 per a night.

I never thought I'd see the day where zone camping cost over $12 per night. Seriously though, last week I went backpacking in Gila NF and didn't have to deal with any of this money grabbing bs.  A $30 entrance fee + $84 (7 days) in camping permits. Way to rich for my blood.... Im not made of money and personally find it insulting to the public as a whole.

They can keep there hands out as long as they want... It ain't happening!    :eusa_hand:

Wow, $12 a night for zone camping?!? That's a pretty sharp increase from before, especially for multi-day backpacking trips. No point in complaining or commenting though. Like YoungHiker already said, they're going to do what they want regardless of what we say. They always have.

The NPS and other groups complain about park overcrowding (even as they all rely on an unending stream of tourists as their reason for existence).

The solution? Raise user fees to the point the public-at-large is priced out of the equation. Problem solved, since the moneyed will pay whatever the ride costs to enter their playground. Everyone else can watch Ken Burns reruns of how great and revolutionary was the national park idea.

As DeserTrek found, going to the non-park public lands is a freer (in more ways than one) experience, encouraged and enabled by the more accommodating mindset of those non-park agencies.

It really is hard to grasp how tone-deaf the NPS is.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: austin gorpchomper on September 20, 2019, 02:35:10 PM
Soo..... I just got off the phone with a ranger over at the Panther Junction Visitor Center. Under the new proposed system, Zone "Wilderness" camping will be treated the exact same as Backcountry camping. Permits will be issued $12 per a night.


Well that's no good.
Title: Re: Backcountry Permits are going online soon, but......
Post by: mule ears on November 20, 2019, 09:42:58 AM
Having not heard or read anything on what has happened with the fee increases I emailed the park and got this reply:

Quote
The park's proposal package, including received comments has been submitted for agency review/approval. We hope to announce any changes to the system soon, since the plan would be to have any modifications in effect in January. Stay tuned.

Running short on time.