Park Service to Boaters: Come Back Later

Officials will offer permit holders a refund and another chance to run Colorado River

Another Chance to Run The Colorado River

The permit holders and supporters have gathered to protest against being banned from paddling the park due to the government shutdown. Photo courtesy Ceiba Adventures

The permit holders and supporters have gathered to protest against being banned from paddling the park due to the government shutdown. Photo courtesy Ceiba Adventures

By Eugene Buchanan

Well, they still might be sitting on a lot of food and PBRs, but Grand Canyon permit holders stymied by the government shutdown will get an opportunity to reschedule their launch dates, the National Park Service announced this afternoon.

The National Park Service announcement comes one week after the government shutdown began, and the Park Service barred permit-holders from the Colorado River. On the afternoon of Oct. 1, after allowing that day’s scheduled trips to launch, the Park Service barricaded the road to the Lee’s Ferry put-in. River-runners with valid permits have continued to arrive, and have set up camp adjacent to the barricades in a parking lot they’re now calling the “dirt eddy.” For seven days, the Park Service was silent about what plans it was making for these river-runners, if any.

Today’s announcement means all Colorado River permit holders who were denied their scheduled launch due to the shutdown will receive a refund of their permit fees. They’ll also be able reschedule their trip with their choice of dates from the rest of 2013 through 2016.

While still frustrated with the lockout, permit holders who spoke to C&K from the barricades say they are glad the Park Service has made an effort to accommodate them. “It’s a pretty fair solution,” says permit holder Lee Maggert of Boulder, Colo., trip leader for a trip that was supposed to put on Oct. 6 and is still camped out at the parking lot of Marble Canyon Lodge. “I feel like the park service is doing the best they can and is doing everything within their power to make things right. But we’re still waiting on Washington.”

Maggert adds that he’s seen four or five groups leave the dirt eddy so far, but that no one’s left since the park service issued its announcement. He says his group is currently looking at possible alternative rivers to run, but that “the options are pretty slim,” and that due to the expense and time constraints his group is most likely looking at trying to re-assemble to run it in another two years.

“The Park worked closely with affected parties to develop this plan, and I appreciate their understanding and support,” Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga said in a statement.

Permit holders will be required to choose their new launch dates within 60 days of the government reopening. No more than three launches will be permitted per day, and the new trip must adhere to the trip length of the chosen season.

Permittees with launch dates three days prior to the park re-opening, or on the opening day, will have a choice: put in right away, or get a refund for their permit fees and reschedule a later date. The maximum number of launches will be adjusted to four per day for the first two days after opening to handle the demand from river-runners currently spinning in the dirt eddy. After that, the maximum will be three launches per day until the backlog has been cleared. River permit holders with the current launch date will have priority to launch on their scheduled date.

Commercial river companies with scheduled launches during the shutdown will be able to carry over their lost user days into the 2014 season (i.e. if a company was to launch with 10 passengers for 10 days, they can carry over 100 user days for 2014).

“The park service re-opening a contingency plan for private boaters to get on the river is the best that anyone can ask for,” says Scott Davis of trip outfitter Ceiba Adventures. “We have to be happy for that. It’s truly unfortunate that they simply can’t allow them to launch during the shutdown, since it’s a volunteer that usually does all the check outs for the private trips. But reimbursing their fees and giving them several different options for a new launch date shows a huge avenue of working together, so our hats
are off to the park service for addressing this issue straight on.”

In all, the NPS says that 21 private river launches and six commercial launches were scheduled over the first two weeks in October.

Still at a standoff to put on for the Grand Canyon. Photo courtesy Ceiba Adventures

Still at a standoff to put on for the Grand Canyon. Photo courtesy Ceiba Adventures

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