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Thread: How to manage WMNF

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    Senior Member hikerbrian's Avatar
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    How to manage WMNF

    That other thread got me thinking. How could the WMNF be better managed so that impacts were less and people's enjoyment was more?

    I just got back from Yosemite. At all of the entrances were signs, at varying distances from the actual entrance, saying 'Approximately 1 hr wait time from HERE', and then a bit further back 'Approximately 2 hr wait time from HERE', etc. I found this strange because we drove right past all of those signs and waited at most 5 min for 2-3 cars in front of us to buy their passes and get into the park. Often it was less than that. Did those signs actually serve a purpose at some point in the recent past? Whoa.

    It turns out, this year Yosemite implemented a new reservation system. If you enter the park between 6 am and 4 pm you need to have an entrance permit, which can be reserved 6 months in advance for like 2 bucks. There are a limited number. I don't know if/when they sell out, but we had no trouble getting permits when we planned the trip 4 months ago. Every ranger I talked to said last year was a complete disaster at Yosemite. The park was getting KILLED. This year, we had no crowds anywhere. We got parking with no trouble, even at popular trailheads. It was positively blissful. I can't even describe how relaxing the trip was.

    There are quotas for back country camping. Yosemite is wide open, so there are a gazillion places to camp comfortably. So they only regulate by entrance: a certain number of permits are available at any time for a given trailhead. But once you're in, you can go and camp wherever you like. Again, our experience in the Yosemite back country was delightful.

    And then the bears. The stories about Yosemite bears are legendary. But Yosemite started requiring back country campers to use bear cans more than a decade ago, and you can rent them for cheap from anywhere; every campground has a bear box at EVERY single campsite. While one bear came into one of our campgrounds (front country), it was shoed off and did not return. If there continue to be bear problems, it was not at all obvious to me.

    My point here is that areas that are being overrun can be rehabilitated with intelligent regulation, and everyone can have a more enjoyable experience. I did not find it in the slightest bit challenging to follow the regulations at Yosemite. We had a pristine experience in the back country. We did popular hikes in the front country and never felt crowded. I did not have rangers waking my family up in the middle of the night to grill me on whether I'd stored my food properly.

    Is there a better way to manage the Whites? Would some amount of regulation be tolerable if it meant a better experience for most? If so, what does that look like?
    Sure. Why not.

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    Senior Member sierra's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hikerbrian View Post
    That other thread got me thinking. How could the WMNF be better managed so that impacts were less and people's enjoyment was more?

    I just got back from Yosemite. At all of the entrances were signs, at varying distances from the actual entrance, saying 'Approximately 1 hr wait time from HERE', and then a bit further back 'Approximately 2 hr wait time from HERE', etc. I found this strange because we drove right past all of those signs and waited at most 5 min for 2-3 cars in front of us to buy their passes and get into the park. Often it was less than that. Did those signs actually serve a purpose at some point in the recent past? Whoa.

    It turns out, this year Yosemite implemented a new reservation system. If you enter the park between 6 am and 4 pm you need to have an entrance permit, which can be reserved 6 months in advance for like 2 bucks. There are a limited number. I don't know if/when they sell out, but we had no trouble getting permits when we planned the trip 4 months ago. Every ranger I talked to said last year was a complete disaster at Yosemite. The park was getting KILLED. This year, we had no crowds anywhere. We got parking with no trouble, even at popular trailheads. It was positively blissful. I can't even describe how relaxing the trip was.

    There are quotas for back country camping. Yosemite is wide open, so there are a gazillion places to camp comfortably. So they only regulate by entrance: a certain number of permits are available at any time for a given trailhead. But once you're in, you can go and camp wherever you like. Again, our experience in the Yosemite back country was delightful.

    And then the bears. The stories about Yosemite bears are legendary. But Yosemite started requiring back country campers to use bear cans more than a decade ago, and you can rent them for cheap from anywhere; every campground has a bear box at EVERY single campsite. While one bear came into one of our campgrounds (front country), it was shoed off and did not return. If there continue to be bear problems, it was not at all obvious to me.

    My point here is that areas that are being overrun can be rehabilitated with intelligent regulation, and everyone can have a more enjoyable experience. I did not find it in the slightest bit challenging to follow the regulations at Yosemite. We had a pristine experience in the back country. We did popular hikes in the front country and never felt crowded. I did not have rangers waking my family up in the middle of the night to grill me on whether I'd stored my food properly.

    Is there a better way to manage the Whites? Would some amount of regulation be tolerable if it meant a better experience for most? If so, what does that look like?
    Having spent a lot of time in Yosemite, I agree the regulations do not interfere with the experience, in fact they probably enhance it. While there are many differences between the Whites and Yosemite, the biggest hurdle and difference in my opinion is the border of the park. Yosemite, if I remember correctly has only 3 entrances that are gated and controlled, this gives you an incredible amount of influence on the visitors. The Whites are completely open and there is no way to control or have direct influence on those entering the area.

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    Didn't Yellowstone just experience some bad flooding, road closures and damage? Not sure if that had anything to do with anything but maybe people canceled plans thinking the park was a mess and this helped?

    I'm sure entry permits would help alleviate massive crowds. I've never been to Yellowstone and don't know it's layout relative to road access but maybe this idea wouldn't work everywhere. In NH with so much easy road access even restricting official trail head points would probably just divert traffic to different entry points as opposed to reducing it. In a place like Baxter, which is more remote and difficult to access, it works better. At any rate, I agree that there are probably ways to better manage this process if different minds were at work on the problem.

    As a side note to that, I was on the Crawford Path this weekend and noticed at the North end of the Mt Franklin loop there was a pile of logs and some bags. They just cut about 7 steps in to the start of the loop trail, added some timber rails and treads. All I could think of was what a total waste of the scarce resources and time available in NH. There was nothing wrong here whatsoever. Why wouldn't those funds be used to fortify an area like Falling Waters, where regular injuries occur from slick, eroded trail surfaces. Why do the funds get allocated the way they do? What little money we have in NH seems to get squandered on unimportant things.

    EDIT: It was politely pointed out via private message that you were at Yosemite, not Yellowstone. Maybe a lot of people confused the two like me and still didn't go??? (Yah probably not...)
    Last edited by DayTrip; 08-22-2022 at 03:29 PM.

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    Senior Member maineguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post

    As a side note to that, I was on the Crawford Path this weekend and noticed at the North end of the Mt Franklin loop there was a pile of logs and some bags. They just cut about 7 steps in to the start of the loop trail, added some timber rails and treads. All I could think of was what a total waste of the scarce resources and time available in NH. There was nothing wrong here whatsoever. Why wouldn't those funds be used to fortify an area like Falling Waters, where regular injuries occur from slick, eroded trail surfaces. Why do the funds get allocated the way they do? What little money we have in NH seems to get squandered on unimportant things.
    Like these?Click image for larger version. 

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    Quote Originally Posted by maineguy View Post
    Like these?Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	6900Click image for larger version. 

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    That would be it exactly. They also built a rock wall just past the summit blocking the Southern part of loop as well as a sizeable wall blocking the Southern junction with the Crawford Path where the relatively new "Crawford Path" sign was put up a year or two ago.

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    Senior Member sierra's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    Didn't Yellowstone just experience some bad flooding, road closures and damage? Not sure if that had anything to do with anything but maybe people canceled plans thinking the park was a mess and this helped?

    I'm sure entry permits would help alleviate massive crowds. I've never been to Yellowstone and don't know it's layout relative to road access but maybe this idea wouldn't work everywhere. In NH with so much easy road access even restricting official trail head points would probably just divert traffic to different entry points as opposed to reducing it. In a place like Baxter, which is more remote and difficult to access, it works better. At any rate, I agree that there are probably ways to better manage this process if different minds were at work on the problem.

    As a side note to that, I was on the Crawford Path this weekend and noticed at the North end of the Mt Franklin loop there was a pile of logs and some bags. They just cut about 7 steps in to the start of the loop trail, added some timber rails and treads. All I could think of was what a total waste of the scarce resources and time available in NH. There was nothing wrong here whatsoever. Why wouldn't those funds be used to fortify an area like Falling Waters, where regular injuries occur from slick, eroded trail surfaces. Why do the funds get allocated the way they do? What little money we have in NH seems to get squandered on unimportant things.

    EDIT: It was politely pointed out via private message that you were at Yosemite, not Yellowstone. Maybe a lot of people confused the two like me and still didn't go??? (Yah probably not...)
    The Crawford Path in in the WMNF, the Falling waters trail is a NH State park, two completely different jurisdictions.

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    Senior Member hikerbrian's Avatar
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    Daytrip - agreed, much more difficult to regulate entry into the WMNF compared to Yosemite. But what about a quota for high use areas? Franconia Ridge and Presi-traverse, need to reserve in advance (this is analogous to Half Dome and John Muir Trail, which are in Yosemite but have special permit regulations; VERY difficult to get those permits). And maybe you need a permit to camp in the back country? This could be done by trailhead. PS, on several occasions after I've described my trip to Yosemite, people have asked me if the trip was affected by the flooding in Yellowstone... so, yes. :-)

    Sierra - I guess I'm thinking as much of the East Side as Yosemite itself. There are a ton of trailheads that access the park from that side, rather than via the 3 car/road entrances to Yosemite proper. That's regulated by trailhead permit. But you're right, managing entry into the WMNF could not be done in the same way as it's done in Yosemite.
    Sure. Why not.

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    Senior Member sierra's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hikerbrian View Post
    Daytrip - agreed, much more difficult to regulate entry into the WMNF compared to Yosemite. But what about a quota for high use areas? Franconia Ridge and Presi-traverse, need to reserve in advance (this is analogous to Half Dome and John Muir Trail, which are in Yosemite but have special permit regulations; VERY difficult to get those permits). And maybe you need a permit to camp in the back country? This could be done by trailhead. PS, on several occasions after I've described my trip to Yosemite, people have asked me if the trip was affected by the flooding in Yellowstone... so, yes. :-)

    Sierra - I guess I'm thinking as much of the East Side as Yosemite itself. There are a ton of trailheads that access the park from that side, rather than via the 3 car/road entrances to Yosemite proper. That's regulated by trailhead permit. But you're right, managing entry into the WMNF could not be done in the same way as it's done in Yosemite.
    That is true, the East side is pretty wide open. If any place begs for a permit system it's the Franconia Ridge. Not only would it mitigate some of the erosion, (by keeping people from avoiding each other and leaving the trail corridor) The experience itself has evolved into utter chaos and has drifted as far from a wilderness experience as is possible. That one trailhead could be managed on weekends, they could raise funds to invest in the trails and pay whatever cost to manage it. I just don't think its close to being acceptable in it's current model. I love that ridge, haven't hiked it in 5 years, not the experience I seek outdoors.

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    Senior Member dave.m's Avatar
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    I think it would be relatively straightforward to control numbers on the trails and established campsites in the Whites by instituting a per trailhead parking permit system. This is close to how Yosemite managed the hiking trails when I lived out there in the 90s. Permits were issued on a per trailhead basis. Some percentage were reservable in advance. Another percentage was allocated day of on a first come/first served basis at ranger stations and/or visitor centers. In the Whites, I would tie the permits to cars parked at trailheads (or bus departures in the future I pray). This could be enforced by patrols at trailhead parking lots. For the most part, this would shape hiker impacts on trails. If highly impacted campsites (e.g. Guyot) remain a problem, additional reservation restrictions could be added for those.

    I would not want to see fees associated with the permits. Tax the rich to fund the people's access to our lands.
    - Dave (a.k.a. pinnah)

    " Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat." - John Lehman, US Secretary of the Navy 1981-1987

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    The WMNF had a much hated reservation system in place for the Great Gulf at one point. The Great Gulf was overrun during the backpacking boom of the seventies and a permit system was attempted. Perhaps modern technology could improve the system to avoid the faults of the early attempt. I missed out by a few years when I moved up, but locals commented that there were ways to game the system and most people from outside the area would drive up only to be turned away due to lack of permits. Online would work as long as there was dedicated funding to manage the process locally in the field. Unfortunately the FS has very poor reputation about leaving dedicated funding sources in place, inevitably their budget gets cut and the dedicated funding becomes part of their primary budget. My guess would be they would offload the management of the system to third party and neglect to ramp up staffing. A

    IMO, the biggest step towards managing the resource is to get people in the field 24/7. Its not an either-or situation, folks still need to be in the office but there needs to be a larger presence in the woods. A face to face contact in the woods is far better than trying to figure out backcountry rules and regulations at home. When I first started hiking in the whites in 1987 I encountered far more FS staff out in the woods keeping an eye out for abuses. I just do not see these staff out there these days. I can go months before I see a FS employee out on patrol. My guess is the FS just doesn't value and promote folks who spend most of their time in the woods and promote those on the administrative side.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 08-22-2022 at 05:03 PM.

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    Senior Member maineguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    The WMNF had a much hated reservation system in place for the Great Gulf at one point.
    Yes, instituted in 1975 it was only for overnight stays. Day use was unlimited.

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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    Its not an either-or situation, folks still need to be in the office but there needs to be a larger presence in the woods. A face to face contact in the woods is far better than trying to figure out backcountry rules and regulations at home.
    Funny you bring that up. When I was heading out of Wild River on the Wildcat Trail SUN AM the first (and only) person I saw that morning was a Forestry Service Monitor. He had a logoed shirt but really did not look at all like the outdoor type. He said he was there checking on usage in the area.

    Like the new Mt Franklin staircase that also had me wondering - they're spending money on this stuff and this is where the send the guy? How about on the Crawford Path, which is rapidly turning into the Franconia Ridge with all the 1-Day Presi trail runners, group hikes, etc. Had one particularly annoying guy SAT running a hundred yards and then launching his drone to take all kinds of noisy acrobatics. The pool party at Lakes Of The Clouds and all the people laying out in the alpine vegetation catching some rays was pretty "awesome" as well. Why aren't they monitoring (and stopping) that stuff? I'm about to go off on an AMC Hut rant so I'll stop now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hikerbrian View Post
    PS, on several occasions after I've described my trip to Yosemite, people have asked me if the trip was affected by the flooding in Yellowstone... so, yes. :-)
    Considering they're only about 900 miles away from each other it's an easy mistake....

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    Senior Member TCD's Avatar
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    I had a similar question to the OP after my visits to Yosemite. Many of the management practices seemed so easy and effective, as opposed to the disastrous mismanagement here in my home in the ADKs.

    I made the effort to contact the NYS DEC, and recommend that they institute some of the practices I had seen; for example, the bear boxes at campsites. I was met with a stony rejection from DEC, with a clear message that the hikers here in the east are stupid and evil, and that no management practices will help prevent the damage they cause.

    So, OK. And that was 15 years ago, and here in the ADKs, management is still a disaster, and we have gotten nowhere. I still try to recommend best practices, but I am tilting at windmills in my old age, and I don't really expect anything to get better. I am glad that I am mostly a bushwhack hiker.

    So to the point of more vs. fewer entrances: Yes, that's certainly true. But that does not mean that users cannot be exposed to education. It just means that it will cost more to do it. Every major trailhead should have a full time, paid trailhead steward to help educate hikers entering the resource. Here, in my state, with the highest taxes in the country, somehow we can't afford that. Which tells me that the "powers that be" simply are not interested in improving things; they are only interested in perpetuating their careers and lining their pockets.

    Maybe it will go better in NH. I hope so, for all of your sakes.

    ps. My avatar is on the summit of Tenaya Peak in Yosemite.

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    Senior Member skiguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dave.m View Post

    I would not want to see fees associated with the permits. Tax the rich to fund the people's access to our lands.
    Why not? That whole mentality is already really working so well everywhere else in our government. I mean why shouldn’t someone whom never steps foot in the woods pay for someone else’s good time.
    "I'm getting up and going to work everyday and I am stoked. That does not suck!"__Shane McConkey

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