(BULLETIN UPDATE: Time is of the essence for those about to lose their river permits this week. Please contact AZ governor and share your story and concern at how this uniquely impacts river runners. Call their office at 602-542-4331 AND send an email via her website at http://www.azgovernor.gov/Contact.asp (scroll to the bottom) AND send a fax to 602-542-1381. She can help, but needs encouragement. Read about it here. Every day that goes by, costs 3-5 trips of 16 people their once-in-a-lifetime vacation.)
Wow, this is an injustice beyond belief or sanity. When the Federal Government shuts down tomorrow, National Parks will be forced to close. This isn’t just a matter of not being able to go camping. For Grand Canyon river permit holders scheduled to launch during this government shutdown, it means they will be denied access to the river. THEIR PERMITS WILL BE REVOKED. OK, I know there are many things impacted, but the consequences of a closure by even one day are huge for those who have a launch date that is cancelled. Here is why:
If you have a permitted trip on the Grand Canyon, you get assigned a specific date that you must launch. If you are even one day late, you don’t go. It typically costs a minimum of $25,000 in non-refundable gear rental, food, transportation to/from AZ, etc for a standard permit of 16 people. Not to mention they had to make arrangements to be away from work for as much as 4 weeks and spent 1 to 2 years in preparation for the trip. When the park closes, these people will be forbidden access to launch on the river. Not just delayed, but CANCELLED. Did I mention permits are given by a very competitive lottery? You’re lucky to even get one. Permits are given 2 years in advance. So those people are going to be screwed in a very big way. About 3 to 5 groups launch each and every day of the year. That is a huge financial loss and emotional loss to each group of people denied access to the river. In a nutshell, the government is cancelling their vacation and keeping the money.
Keep in mind, these groups are fully prepared to travel the next 21 days fully self-supported with no interaction from the outside world. In fact, it is likely they won’t see anyone else, including park rangers, for the next 3 weeks except occasionally crossing paths with other groups that are rafting the river like they are. For that matter, anyone who is on the river right now has no way of even knowing that the park is closed and no one else will be following behind them. Perhaps tomorrow, someone is planning on hiking in at Phantom Ranch, the half-way point where many trips swap people who only do the upper or lower half. That person will not be permitted to hike in?! Yet there will also be people hiking out who also have no way of knowing what is happening. If someone was coming to pick them up, they won’t even be able to do that. And if the person hiking in was supposed to row one of the group’s rafts, they will be without an oarsman!
I find it appalling that those park personnel could not be allowed to volunteer to work to keep this system operating. If necessary, they would take unpaid leave later, when it could be scheduled and planned for. I would happily volunteer my time to help keep the park open during this Mickey Mouse affair. Unfortunately, that isn’t an option either. I have led 2 trips down the river and both times we launched in October. I keenly know the work that goes into planning and preparing for such a trip, the anticipation, and pure joy of finally being there and pushing off from the bank to begin that amazing journey. My heart goes out to everyone will have such a wonderful experience irreparably scarred as a result of people in Washington DC selfishly setting policies that needlessly prevent the river runners access to the river. A shame on both the park service and the government that they have made no contingency plan to accommodate this need in such circumstances. There is nothing physically preventing those people from launching their trip. It is not being disrupted by a flood or a drought or an earthquake. Simply by political decisions made far away and blind of the senseless impact.
The first time I went down the river, our launch date was October 15, 2008. If you recall, that was one week into the financial crisis. It was also in the heat of a very acrimonious presidential election. And I can say for the month I was on the river, it was also some of the most peaceful, tranquil, contented time of my life. At that time that was possibly the only place I could have been within the borders of this country and still escapee the wraiths known as politics — intangible, bodiless, without form and that which cannot be destroyed or dispelled, yet they sap the life and happiness of everyone they come in contact. Sadly, this time, those people looking for a similar reprieve as I had, will suffer worst from the very thing they were probably most trying to escape.
We, the people, should not tolerate this from the people we elected to lead. Make your voice heard!
Here is a copy of a newsletter published by River Runners for Wilderness that gives a few more details. Visit their facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/RRFW.org :
Also, you might appreciate this more if you read the river log I have published from my second trip. http://thenotesguyinseattle.com/canyonlinks/ I plan to continue the story again in the next few weeks.
Lees Ferry to Close if Government Shuts Down
September 30, 2013
As a United States Government shutdown looms large, plans are now in place to close all National Parks across the country on October 1, 2013. The closures will impact all recreational opportunities at Lee’s Ferry, Arizona, including the cancellation of all river trips.
According to Grand Canyon National Park officials, river runners who have already launched downstream into Grand Canyon National Park will be able to complete their river trip.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area officials, who operate Lee’s Ferry, note that should the government shutdown go into effect, the closure of Lee’s Ferry will start with a “soft closure” beginning at 8:00 am, with a hard closure from noon on, after which no river trips will be allowed to launch.
Kansas river runner Hilary Esry won the river permit lottery last year for an October 7, 2013 launch date after first becoming interested in running Grand Canyon twenty years ago. “We have friends flying in from as far away as Alaska on non-refundable tickets and have spent over $17,000 so far in NPS fees, food and equipment rental. I have a contract with the Federal Government allowing me to launch, and so far, I have not been contacted from the National Park Service at all about a pending closure of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon” she said. “We expect to be on our own and except for the mandatory orientation at Lee’s Ferry, we do not expect to interface with anyone from the NPS. I can’t tell you how nerve wracking this is for our trip.”
The Grand Canyon National Park web site states there are sixteen river trips scheduled to launch in the first seven days of October. Thirteen of those trips are public trips while three are concession guided river trips. There are sixty-one river trips scheduled for the month of October, twelve of which are concessions trips and forty-nine are public trips.
Officials at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area state that roadwork on the Lee’s Ferry road will continue, as the funds for that project are non-appropriated funds. River runners who have parked their vehicles at the long term parking lot at Lee’s Ferry will be allowed to retrieve their vehicles but this will require a law enforcement escort.
Fishing at Lee’s Ferry, including from the bank and by boat, both public and guided, will not be allowed. The smooth water concessions river trips from the base of Glen Canyon Dam downstream to Lee’s Ferry will also cease operation.
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