Changes to Grand Canyon Trip Lenghts Proposed - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 12-09-2013   #1
 
Tom Martin's Avatar
 
Flagstaff, Arizona
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 920
Changes to Grand Canyon Trip Lenghts Proposed

Hi all, Grand Canyon National Park has proposed four changes to the lottery system and how self guided river runners get to float through Grand Canyon. One involves changing trip lengths.


This was announced in an eight year review of the Lottery system in November
(http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisi...ear_Update.pdf)
.

Here are the proposed changes:

1) Modify lottery site to show cancellations when they occur to give advance notice before lotteries are announced.

2) Schedule Lotteries at regular times each month (e.g. every 2nd Tues -
Thurs)

3) Encourage the listing of PATLs (Potential Alternate Trip Leaders) by doubling points on lottery applications that list PATLs. Currently only 18% of applicants list PATLs)

4) To help with TAOTS, shorten the noncommercial maximum trip lengths from 21 to 18* days for the last half of April and increase the maximum trip lengths from 18 to 21 days for the last half of September. *Exempt trips already scheduled.

What do YOU think about this?

Here's some comments on these proposed changes:

1) Modify lottery site to show cancellations when they occur to give advance notice before lotteries are announced.

Anything the Park can do to alert river runners that cancelled trips are available is a good idea. We support the NPS in this, and would even like to see an e-mail buy-in allowing individuals who have created a lottery profile to receive an e-mail, should they so choose to do so, announcing the cancelled trip immediatly when it is turned back to the NPS.

2) Schedule Lotteries at regular times each month (e.g. every 2nd Tues -
Thurs)

We are not sure this a helpful change. We would rather see lotteries happening as soon as cancelled trips happen, even daily, verses waiting for a set day of the month. Increasing lead time by announcing and allowing a lottery immediately as it is cancelled would be ideal.

3) Encourage the listing of PATLs (Potential Alternate Trip Leaders) by doubling points on lottery applications that list PATLs. Currently only 18% of applicants list PATLs.

The NPS has never released any data showing that the Potential Alternate Trip Leader (PATL) system is even working. The public has no way of knowing how many river trips per year have not launched because they did not identify a PATL. We would be very interested in seeing this data. That said, the present system sets the total lottery chances to the person with the lowest possible lottery points. Meaning, if two people apply, the Lottery applicant with say, five points, and the PATL with two points, the lottery application will only be awarded two points. We would offer that the system should set the lottery chances at the highest possible points based on applicant points. In the example above the lottery application would have five points instead of two. Finally, if the NPS was truly interested in assuring trips have an identified PATL, adding a PATL up to 30 days prior to launch should be allowed and is an easy "fix" to this "problem." By the time most trips are within thirty days of launching, their trip participant list is set, and identifying a PATL would be much easier.

4) To help with TAOTS, shorten the noncommercial maximum trip lengths from 21 to 18* days for the last half of April and increase the maximum trip lengths from 18 to 21 days for the last half of September. *Exempt trips already scheduled.

Of the four proposed changes, this is the most perplexing. Since 2006, we have not heard of a single self-guided river trip saying they wanted the length of their spring river trip to be shortened, or that they were encountering too many other trips in the 280 mile canyon trip. Besides the fact that the spring flowers are out and the weather is finally warming up, the spring period when the NPS is suggesting shortening noncommercial trip lengths is when upstream winds can seriously slow river travel. We would like to also point out that there is a spike in commercial launches during the time period the NPS notes a Trips At One Time (TAOT) number above the "aimed for 60 TAOT maximum." We note from page 32 of the November 2005 Final Environmental Impact Statement, Colorado River Management Plan Vol 1, pg 32, the following: "Camping at the same site or at nearby sites within sight or sound of another group becomes necessary in some places when there are 70 trips at one time, about the maximum current level." The NPS only shows one year's worth of data, the 2013 use levels. In 2013, the maximum TAOT for the year is 64, and this occurs only three days in a row. Over one seven day period when this 64 TAOT level is achieved, the average TAOT for the week is 62. We would like to see TAOT data for the last 8 years before even considering such a drastic change. It should also be noted that the chart showing 2013 TAOT's indicates TAOT levels are exceeding 60 trips per day at various times throughout the summer. It is very possible this summertime overrun is solely based on concessionaire river trip scheduling variability.
If so, it would make more sense to rearrange the concessionaire schedule to avoid a cluster of concessionaire trips launching in the first two weeks of May. We also note that the 2006 Colorado River Management Plan (CRMP) allowed for one concessionaire motor launch per day in April, with three allowed per day in May. It would make sense then to spread the concessions trips out further into late May and early June, when the TAOT drops down to 55, or into mid-August, when the TAOT drops to below 50 for a three week period. Finally, the NPS proposes to impact 30 do-it-yourself river trips for an overrun of only 16 trips in the NPS identified period of concern. It seems completely unreasonable to impact twice the number of do-it-yourself river trips required to achieve a desired outcome to a problem possibly caused by the river concessionaires. The NPS offers to lengthen river trips in the second half of September, the start of the motor-free season, as an off-set to the spring reduction. Trip length was identified as a very important aspect of the river experience in Grand Canyon (CRMP Technical Memorandum, Shelby and Whittaker, pg 67).
Overall lottery applications for do-it-yourself river trips throughout the year peak in the summer in a bell shaped curve, with an additional spike in applications, even greater than the summer peak, beginning on the first day of the motor free season starting September 15. In fact, demand for the first and second dates immediately after the motorized watercraft cease operations have risen to over 500 applications for one launch (2012). The NPS has not explained why there is a need to increase lottery applications during this time period when these applications are already at a maximum.

The eight year review did note via charts that in the four winter months, November through February, the CRMP has missed its target goals of do-it-yourself public river trip user days by 40%, number of do-it-yourself passengers by 50% and number of do-it-yourself public trips launching by 25%. The NPS did not identify this as a problem. We also note the review did not mention that oar powered concessions river trips have exceeded the 2006 river management plan projections by 81 trips in the 2008 through 2012 seasons, while the do-it-yourself public river runners have fallen short by 151 trips during the same time period, mostly in the winter. Since 2007, we have been encouraging Grand Canyon National Park to consider including elimination of the one-river-trip-per-year rule for self-guided river runners in the commercial-free winter months, removing the lottery point "reset" for participating in a winter river trip, and returning winter trip lengths to the pre-2006 winter trip length of 30 days to Diamond Creek from the present 25 days in order to reduce the loss of 151 river trips by making these winter river trips more attractive.

What do YOU think? We appreciate your feedback, yours, tom

Ps: If you don't let the NPS and your elected representative know what you think, the NPS will continue to work in a vacuum of its choosing.

Tom Martin
Co-Director
River Runers For Wilderness
Arizona Field Office
PO Box 30821
Flagstaff, AZ 86003-0821
Hm: 928-556-0742
Mobile: 928-856-9065
[email protected]
www.rrfw.org

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Old 12-10-2013   #2
 
Bisters, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 421
I'm in favor of allowing GC river runners to participate in an additional trip annually if the 2nd trip takes place during the winter months when competition for those permits is low. It seems the lottery system has done a great job of getting those unfortunate souls who've been waiting 10-15+ years on the water, so now NPS needs to figure out how to make use of the less desirable launch dates. It seems silly to prevent a willing and able person from participating in a mid-winter trip because they were lucky enough to get on a warmer weather trip.

How about making Feb 15th-Nov 15th one trip/year, and anyone who can join a winter trip is free to do so? Even if a few diehard boaters wanted to do max length trips back-to-back-to-back, I'm certain they wouldn't be doing that every year. I would think the Park would still struggle to fill all the available user days during winter, but trips that did get put together would have a much better chance of filling out their roster.
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Old 12-10-2013   #3
DailyBoater
 
Wheredat, USA
Join Date: Feb 2013
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Have these four points specifically been proposed or is just being considered? There is a difference.
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Old 12-10-2013   #4
 
raftus's Avatar
 
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
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Quicker notifications sound great. I like the idea of weekly or bi-weekly lotteries - the sooner people can get a short notice permit the better. Planning a trip and assembling a group takes time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Martin View Post
3)Finally, if the NPS was truly interested in assuring trips have an identified PATL, adding a PATL up to 30 days prior to launch should be allowed and is an easy "fix" to this "problem." By the time most trips are within thirty days of launching, their trip participant list is set, and identifying a PATL would be much easier.
The problem with adding PATL's after winning the permit is that it creates a black market for permits. This happened before the system was changed - I personally knew people that won permits and then re-sold them for thousands of dollars to other boaters (Collect cash, name the buyer as the PATL, then drop yourself from the trip). They were boaters that needed cash more then a trip down the grand. The potential to make cash will entice additional people who have no intention of boating the canyon to apply for permits. That decreases the chances of actual boaters winning the lottery, and makes it easier for well off boaters to buy their way into the canyon.

I like the idea of increasing the points by adding a PATL - I'd say add the points together of the TL and PATL rather than doubling them. Adding their points would also avoid the reduction in points of naming a PATL that only has 1 or 2 points. The NPS shoudl release data regarding the number of trips cancelled due to the TL not being able to make it.

As for the TAOTS and trip length changes - The NPS should release more years of data. The changes don't seem that significant, but I would question if it should be the commercial or non-commercial trips making changes here. More data would help make an informed choice.
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Old 12-10-2013   #5
 
tj@cu's Avatar
 
Boulder, Colorado
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Correct me if I'm wrong but if you are put down as PATL you cannot apply as TL on another application. Who in there right mind would do this, it decreases the chances of winning a permit.

I would also love to see the one trip a year taken away, and be able to take winter trips (maybe just dec-jan).

-Tom
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Old 12-10-2013   #6
 
Tom Martin's Avatar
 
Flagstaff, Arizona
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 920
Raftus,

agreed, quicker notification is a good idea.

also agreed about needing more data to see why the DIY folks need to sacrifice for the concessions folks. From what I am hearing, this issue is a big deal all summer and not just the first few weeks in May.

You make an excellent point about gaming. Clearly, only by adding more points will folks weigh the odds and either not list a PATL, or join forces to get more points with someone else. The NPS has not clarified exactly what they are intending to do. Maybe the best way to handle it is to go back to the pre-02006 way with a MD's note, you get a deferral for one year. If you don't go the next year, you don't go. End of story.

Johnryan, these are "possible changes" so anyone who has concerns should voice them now.

TJ, you are right, if you are listed as a PATL you can't be on another lottery application. No one does it and the NPS wonders "why don't we get more than 18% compliance?" Well duh... But, sweeten the pot with more lottery points, and that would make winners out of applications with PATL's listed ahead of those who had no PATL listed and therefore less points.

All the best, tom
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Old 12-14-2013   #7
 
Park City, Utah
Paddling Since: 1982
Join Date: Sep 2009
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I think items 1-3 are in general a good idea, but I'm against changing the late April trip length for most of the reasons Tom Martin mentioned. I'd like to know how many private boaters actually contacted the NPS to complain about crowding on their GC trip. A handful or a hundred.

I've experience the shorter/faster trip catching up to longer/slower trips on our first GC trip that was a pre-lottery 21 day April 15 launch. The 18 day trips that launched behind us were catching up. It settle down after few days. It was a very minor annoyance compared to the "Evil Doctors from Oregon" trip that launched the day before.

On the other hand, on our early May launch in '09, we went days without seeing another trip. We joked with the Southern Baptist on the trip that the Rapture must have happen and WTH was he still doing here. BTW that trip was only 16 days to DC and I felt rushed the whole time. We skipped many hikes that we would have liked to have done. I think the jockeying for camps was just as bad as the "crowded" period from the previous trip IMO.

Apparently, the GCPBA board has supported these changes for years without letting their members know about their support. At least that's the way it appears from posts over at the GCPBA forum. Check it out.

I'm not sure how much weight the Park Service giveS to GCPBA input, but if you disagree with shortening April trips, then you need to get on the horn and let the superintendent know.
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Old 12-14-2013   #8
 
San Jose, CA, California
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Allow multiple trips in the winter

My interpretation of the data is that winter trips are down significantly.

And I am all for allowing users to run multiple trips during the winter months to fill the empty days!

I have a vision of ultra light speed focused kayak self support trips.
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