Go Back   Mountain Buzz > Whitewater Boating > Whitewater Kayaking

Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 04-07-2010   #41
Tom Martin's Avatar
Flagstaff, Arizona
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 817
Try this Haywire...

RRFW Haywire - Grand Canyon All Sewn Up - 4/1/2010
From Lee’s Ferry to Washington DC

For countless millennia the pure beauty of the Grand Canyon existed in a delicate balance as the most important ditch in the universe. Humans arrived, shit all over the place, and its wilderness character was degraded to the level of a McDonald's drive thru.

Ted Hatchet, of Hatchet River Expeditions, now proudly proposes continuing the 1981 extreme lack of wilderness management plan for the Grand Canyon. The plan is simple... continue to allow a small oligopoly of government contractors with sweet rollover contracts to make millions by trashing a World Heritage Site while keeping self guided river runners out of the Canyon in the Summer.

“The new permitting lottery is Great!” notes Hatchet. “We, the commercial concessionaires, get all the summertime launches, and the do-it-yourselfers get all the winter launches. And you know what? They agree to call it 50-50! WAHOO!” (Hatchet jumps in the air and clicks his heels together).

Sherriff Dimes, a board member of the Grand Canyon Naked Boaters Association, is thrilled with the new plan. “We are so happy with half the user days, we don’t care that private boaters don’t want to boat naked in the winter, at least we got the launches on paper!” Dimes notes that the lottery application is so restrictive, that permits are going unclaimed. “We’ll do something about it in 2016” notes Dimes.

Hatchet is happy that the GCNBA takes the winter. “We control who goes in the summer, and how they go. Wilderness and Grand Canyon be dammed….hey, mind that low flying helicopter, it’s going to land right where you are standing.”

Air traffic noise has long been an issue, and it has also been solved. “The more helicopters the better, notes Hatchet, who admits he uses the helicopter take-outs to market his otherwise unsellable trips. “Yes, we know 9 out of 10 folks who have done an oar and a motor trip want to take an oar trip over a motor trip, but we offer a helicopter at the end of the motor trip to get them off the trip pronto! Hey, it’s what the people want!”

It should also be noted that the GCNBA has been accepting funding from the river concessions groups, and telling their members what to think based on ongoing secret negotiations with the Grand Canyon Alliance of Motor Interests, known as GC All-Mine. According to Dimes, it’s what the GC Naked members want!

Note: Not an actual riverwire, all references to people, places, and things are fictional, similarities to real life individuals are intended and meaningless. Persons taking this post seriously will be banned from the canyon for life, and persons taking life too seriously will be banned from living life for life.

Tom Martin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2010   #42
Denver / Coloma / Monterey, CO / CA
Paddling Since: 1971
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 119
I've been following this with a lot of interest. I have some history in the game, so perhaps I have something to add to the conversation.

Full disclosure:
1. I grew up in a river rafting family who had a permit in the GC (perhaps the last permit issued in the original go round, back around 1970) amongst other places.
2. I worked as a guide in the GC in the '70's.
3. I worked as a guide and outfitter in the first half of the '80's. (Same company, I just took over for my parents.)
4. We sold our company (that my parents created) in 1986. It was called Wilderness World, the new company is Canyon Explorations. (No roll-over from our family to CanX, just the equipment and the permit.)
5. I am an ardent private boater these days, mostly kayaks, but rafts and dories too. I paddle/row all over the place, not just the GC, but it will always be my favorite.
6. I have done a number of privates in the GC, along with all the commercial trips.
7. I am a lifelong member of Grand Canyon River Guides (GCRG) and proud of it.
8. I am also a member (for years) of American Whitewater and proud of it.
9. I have no affiliation with GCPBA or RRFW that I know of.
10. I did privates in 08 and 09 and am in the system for future privates.
11. I'd like to row a couple of commercials a year, given the chance, as I'm recently "semi-retired" and want to get back to the things I love.

Some observations from my experiences:

There are good outfitters and bad outfitters, just as there are good privateers and bad privateers. Nobody here has a clean slate.

Some of the outfitters were actually pioneers in making the place cleaner by adopting the currently used toilet systems and fire pans before they were required. A lot (but not all) of the privateers bitched about having to carry out their waste back then. A lot of the outfitters bitched too. I think everyone agrees it's the only way to go now.

The vast majority of the commercial guides love and protect that place more than anyone I know. Working in the Canyon is a privilege (you're absolutely right on that one Tom) and anyone who spends time there realizes it soon enough. With very few exceptions, I think the outfitters feel the same way. Yes, they are lucky to be there and the current system isn't always fair, but life isn't always fair and it never will be.

I do have to laugh at the "millions" of dollars the outfitters are supposedly making. Having real world experience at that, and we were a successful medium small company, I can say that getting rich off river trips is pretty damned hard and not damned likely. Good living? Sure, some of them. Rich? Maybe a few, but not many.

Economics 101: Grossing several million dollars a year does not mean profits in the millions. A 10% net after expenses, taxes and fees would be considered pretty friggin' good.

Another thing: There is obviously a lot of demand for commercial trips down there as they typically fill up. The argument that most of those commercial passengers would do in on their own is BS. Many, many people want to go through the Canyon without having to do all the work. Most of them don't have the skill and are happy to pay to have someone do it for them.

And one more little tidbit: If you think that you'll see more of the Canyon on a private trip versus a good commercial trip, think again. While it's certainly possible to do that, given the extra days, many, many a private trip spends their time down there leaving camp late and getting to camp early. Personally I think it's a rare private that hikes more than a good commercial trip. Of course, hiking isn't everything and there is something great to be said for how relaxing a private can be. Point being that you can get a lot out of either trip, it's up to you (and the guides on the commercial side).

All that said, the current situation for private boaters could certainly be improved and a private trip is an awesome way to experience the Canyon. I am all for allowing boaters more than one trip per year, given they do it on an unclaimed/cancelled launch date. Why waste the days?

There are lots of "facts" being thrown around in these posts. I suggest everyone be cautious about believing everything they read just because someone says it's so.

Here is what I believe:

The Grand Canyon is too special a place not to regulate it from it's worst enemy: all of us. While the current system isn't perfect, it is certainly better than it was 10 years ago. That doesn't mean it can't or shouldn't be improved though.

And while it's fine to keep working on and trying to improve the system, baited (and infantile - as entertaning as they are) posts from any side won't get it done. The ONLY way anything will change is if all parties come to the table and work together. Everyone has their own agenda but, in order to make any headway they are going to have to give a little to get a little.

These ongoing posts remind me a lot of the current shitpile situation we have in our government: Two opposing sides and no one is willing to move to some common ground. Too bad for all of us.

Kyle K is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-08-2010   #43
Tom Martin's Avatar
Flagstaff, Arizona
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 817
Excellent Post Kyle!

Hi Kyle, thanks for your well reasoned post.

Yes, there are good and bad folks everywhere. The Grand Canyon, as you point out, is not exception.

The toilet system was introduced and pushed by some do it yourself river runners in the 1960;s, and you are quite correct that both commercial and self guided folks complained. (Cite Ingram Hijacking a River)

Yes, concessions crew certainly love and protect the place, but so do a lot of self guided river runners.

As to fairness and life, I heard a great quote the other day. While life isn’t fair, we do our best to make sure that sports and our government should be. The Colorado River in Grand Canyon, managed by the National Park Service, should be an example of how things like river running can be managed fairly.

As to concessions profits, after speaking with an ex accountant for one of the river concessionaires, a 50% net was more like what they were making. Your point about some doing well and others not is reflected in a 1970’s study (was it Parent?) that showed profitability was a result of good or poor company management.

If you look at what the livery companies charge a day, with year round office staff and seasonal employees, and what the concessions charge a day, with a larger seasonal employee pool, the potential for a profit margin begins to emerge. But that’s a side issue.

As to demand, we know now what the distribution of lottery applicants is. The NPS could have shared the distribution of Waiting List applicants was, but they didn’t share that. Now, seeing actual applications helps us look at one more component of demand. What is still missing is any similar data from concession services.

According to the NPS, there were something like 10,000 unused concessions user days last year. That’s what, 4 or 5 times the size of Wilderness World’s user days.

During the same time period, there were thousands of lottery applicants that went away losers.

During the CRMP, an economist noted that the majority of folks who want to raft the river would most likely seek something between the completely self guided and total turn-key concessions trips. But that type of commercial service is not allowed. This is more missing data that makes management difficult.

What one see’s on a river trip is in the eye of the beholder. You have no doubt reached the take out on a self guided trip and noticed your feet were not touching the ground. Same could be said for concessions trips. This is a good thing, but not what makes an argument for any type of fixed allocation distribution.

Your point about easing up the tight controls on self guided folks applying for winter permits makes a lot of sense. Agreed, why waste the days.

Remember the 1981 plan? It gave a lot of increased user days to the self guided river runners. But trip launches were limited in the off season such that the full use of the user days allowed could not be used as there were no trip launches available. In the 1989 CRMP, the NPS allowed more trips to launch in the off season, and actual use finally approached the total user days allowed.

We now have Adaptive Management to make the needed changes. Let’s see if the NPS can agree to make this needed change for the 2010-2011 season.

Good point about facts. Trust but verify!

Your point about baiting posts is excellent! Thanks for that! And, at one point we can only hope all groups interested in this issue would come together and seek a “bi-partisan” agreement, like has recently been attempted with the overflights issue. A few like minded groups can come up with a plan, but this is far from having a group of all interested parties work toward a common goal while not leaving any party out “because we don’t like how they think”.

Hopefully, the goal would be resource protection first, and on the shoulders of a healthy resource we then have equitable access.

Thanks again for your post Kyle! Yours, Tom
Tom Martin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-08-2010   #44
Denver / Coloma / Monterey, CO / CA
Paddling Since: 1971
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 119

Thank you for the well thought out reply. I agree with almost everything you're saying with a couple of exceptions.

One thing to remember is that when the original and secondary allocations were made, the demand for private trips was pretty small. Of course better gear, better skill sets and more knowledge (I love your guide book!) of what was once considered a dangerous and forbidding journey have upped that demand considerably. I know that many, many more folks are capable of doing the trip on their own now and, more importantly, want to do it on their own.

One idea I would like to see implemented is the ability for a private to hire a guide to help them if they don't feel completely capable on their own. I would consider this a great blend of private and commercial use. That comes with it's own set of repercussions but we'll save that for a later discussion if need be.

We would all love to see more equitable use for privates but I'm not sure how to do it without cutting into the current outfitters ability to make a living. It's pretty hard to take away somebody's income in the name of what one group thinks is the best way to manage a place, as special and deserving as it is. I can't speak for you but I would be surprised if Vishnu Press didn't get a little upset if the EPA suddenly decided that all books can now only be published in electronic form because paper is not the "best" way to use trees.

My concern is that some previous posts paint all of the river concessionaires as money grubbing capitalists that only want to use the resource to fatten their wallets. I think the truth is that many of the companies, especially the smaller ones, don't make much money at all and they do it only because they love the Canyon and feel lucky indeed that they can scratch away at making a living doing what they (and I) consider the best possible work in the world.

I can't speak for the current outfitters but a 50% net was absolutely laughable for us: by huge measures I might add. And even if a company made a 20% profit (unlikely for many, regardless of how well they are managed) you must take into consideration that they only have a 6 month season at best. If you parlay that net profit out over 12 months it becomes apparent that one has to make reasonable money during the season to keep the lights on for the off months. The office, taxes, rent, etc. don't go away from October through April.

Again, I can only speak from my experiences but I'm guessing a lot of the other outfitters weren't too different. Frankly I wasn't a great business mind or company manager, but most outfitters (at least back in my day) were river guides first and business people second.

For example: In '83 we received increases from our original user day allotments from '71. WiWo went from 2900 to 3750 (if my memory is correct). That put us in a bit of a quandary: at 2900 days we could run one crew all season long (no overlapping trips) with 25 passengers per trip max. That meant I only needed one good set of gear, one really good crew and life was very simple. I think we did 10 trips back to back over the season.

When we received the extra days I had to make some hard decisions. This "blessing" was actually a bit of a curse. After a lot of consideration, I elected to cut our max trip size to 20 passengers, and created two overlapping crews: one on a 10 trip schedule and one on a 7 trip schedule. Anyone with a basic understanding of economics will realize that the extra costs associated with this cut way into our profits. It costs very close to the same to run a 5 boat trip as it does a 6 boat trip (all oar powered rigs in our case) but the cash inflow is decidedly less.

Was this the best decision economically? Nope. But my family agreed that it was the best way to achieve a high quality experience for our clients and still make a living wage (barely). To this day, many of those clients tell me their GC trip with us was one of the highlights of their lives. That's a pretty nice legacy to have and I'm honored and humbled by it.

But back to the economics: During the '80's I was the vice president and part owner Wilderness World and my salary was $12,000 per year. Even then that constituted pretty crappy wages. I didn't send my parents much money (if any) and we rolled most of it back into the company, constantly upgrading/maintaining gear, vehicles and such.

So, you can tell, I have a very soft spot for many of the outfitters and guides down there and I think many of them are unfairly painted as having "money first, Canyon second" mindsets.

That said, I am now mostly a privateer and would love nothing more than to launch a bunch of times a year. I am willing to take my lumps though, as we continue to work out the best way to manage this incredible resource. I applaud your efforts for more equitable launches as well as the efforts of all the folks that got us (private boaters) the much better system we have today than we had just a few short years ago. And I hope it continues to change and improve!

Keep up the good fight and remember that we're all in this together, even if everyone doesn't agree with all potential outcomes or tactics. Thanks Tom, and all of you that strive to take care of our rivers and creeks: the lifeblood of our planet and our passion.
Kyle K is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-08-2010   #45
Tom Martin's Avatar
Flagstaff, Arizona
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 817
Hi Kyle, thanks again for your thoughts. We are all in this together, attempting to preserve what is helpless to preserve itself.

Thank you for the points on demand in the late 70’s early 80’s. I may have this wrong, but from the implementation of the first permit system in the mid 1950’s, Grand Canyon National Park tried to dissuade self guided folks from doing the river on their own. This helped the river companies, and certainly served to slow the increased self guided demand for a while.

You could be right that demand was small, but that was then, and now...looking at the applications for the lottery, one can assume self guided demand is very robust.

Your point about hiring a guide (or a consultant) is a good one. We at RRFW have been saying this is a commercial service and should come from the concessions allocation in a fixed allocation world, and in an allocation-free system, with limits on the number of trip-starts a day, it wouldn’t matter what the winner of the permit wanted to do. Hire a consultant, do their own trip with friends, hire a full commercial turn-key trip… options options.

Folks wrongly say RRFW wants to get into the “consultant” business, but they are misguided in thinking that.

One very small way to increase self guided access is by a simple modification to the one-trip-per-year rule. That started this thread. Another option is to slowly transition the allocation depending on real demand. The NPS was going to try this in the CRMP. Maybe they will try it again?

Also, and we may disagree here, but it’s not the NPS’s role to provide outfitters with guaranteed jobs. In an allocation free model, outfitters have to survive just like the livery services (Canyon REO, Moenkopi, PRO) with no allocated set aside. They would have to compete, keep costs low and customer service up, just like the livery businesses do.

Vishnu Temple Press has to compete in an open market. No government agency contracts with us for 10 years of X-number of book sales, with an option for a contract extension at the end of the ten years. This example may be more closer to what is happening in Grand Canyon.

Your point is well taken that we should not make assumptions about others motives. There’s enough of that going around these days. Most folks in the Canyon feel lucky to be there. Concessions crew indeed scratch away at trying to live off tips and low pay as seasonal employees, while the concession owners (or stockholders in ARAMARK’s case) take the $. This is of course a side issue.

The company accountant we spoke with worked for one of the larger concessionaires, so that 50% may have factored into the size of the company as well. Remember, PRO, REO and others kept the lights on in the winter before winter use skyrocketed. They charge what $45-70 per person night, compared to concessions per day costs at $300-$450 per night.
Your point about being a river guide first, and maybe not having a business major background is a good one. While that was certainly how it was in the past, today it’s an industry.

Thanks so much for the example of how the increased user days changed your business model. One of the things that you had me thinking about is how the self guided folks really are engines in the economy. You pointed out that you only needed one good set of gear, while self guided folks all have their own life jacket, boat/kayak, and purchase food at retail vs wholesale, etc. I don’t think this has ever been factored into the regional economy mix, but I am getting off track. Sorry.

When you mentioned passengers talking about the Grand Canyon trip being the highlight of their lives, that is still happening today in the self guided world, and I can only assume it’s happening in the concessions world too...but I hear the cost of the concessions trips, being as high as it is, is not catering to Average Joe anymore, but to folks making well above what Joe will ever see. Does that make a difference in the trip? I don’t know...

And what did you charge in the 80’s? I just went to Western River Expedition’s web site and I can book a date certain 2010 prime time summer river trip today, 5 nights in the canyon, for $2,445.00. Cough. </SPAN>

Your point about concessions crew not being "money first, Canyon second" mindsets is spot on. Guide pay has not gone up that much in 20 years, and has certainly not kept pace with the yearly increase in trip costs the NPS allows concessions to charge.

Kyle, thanks too for looking for solutions for the resource and all boaters, not just self serving what about me visions. I personally don’t want to launch a bunch of times a year. We boat and backpack in the Canyon, and do other things. One trip a year is enough for me. But this isn’t about what you or I want, and you pointing that out is greatly appreciated.

Like you, I too hope the River Management Plan continues to change and improve! Yes indeed, we're all in this together!

Thank you too Kyle, for your passion and stewardship of the Grandest of Canyons.

Yours, tom

Tom Martin is offline   Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Similar Threads
Topic Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
RRFW Riverwire - Grand Canyon Litigation Update Tom Martin Whitewater Kayaking 3 10-26-2008 09:44 PM
RRFW Riverwire – Groups Appeal GC Ruling on Park’s 100th Birthday Tom Martin Whitewater Kayaking 1 01-11-2008 11:56 PM
RRFW Riverwire – GRAND CANYON LITIGATION UPDATE Tom Martin Whitewater Kayaking 1 09-09-2007 06:48 PM
RRFW Riverwire – Yet Another Grand Canyon Lottery Started Tom Martin Whitewater Kayaking 70 06-25-2007 10:43 AM
RRFW Riverwire – HELP AVAILABLE FOR GRAND CANYON LOTTERY Tom Martin Whitewater Kayaking 0 05-07-2007 10:54 PM

» Classified Ads
Demo 2016 Jackson Side...

posted by 4CRS

Used 2016 Jackson Side Kick kid's whitewater kayak -...

Jackson Karma (Medium)

posted by Paddling Life

Brand Spankin' New 2016 Jackson Karma Creek kayak!


posted by jordanfrank7

I am selling my kayak to get ready for the winter season. ...

Powered by vBadvanced CMPS v3.2.3

Our Communities

Our communities encompass many different hobbies and interests, but each one is built on friendly, intelligent membership.

» More about our Communities

Automotive Communities

Our Automotive communities encompass many different makes and models. From U.S. domestics to European Saloons.

» More about our Automotive Communities

Marine Communities

Our Marine websites focus on Cruising and Sailing Vessels, including forums and the largest cruising Wiki project on the web today.

» More about our Marine Communities

Copyright 2002-2012 Social Knowledge, LLC All Rights Reserved.

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 05:50 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2016, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.