Grand Canyon National Park has just released a Frequently Asked Questions announcement, as the park transitions the non-commercial waiting list to a weighted lottery as part of the 2006 re-write of the Colorado River Management Plan.
According to the NPS announcement, the park cited overwhelming and universal dissatisfaction with the waitlist system as justification to change the permit system. The NPS failed to mention the overwhelming dissatisfaction with the underlying inequitable allocation between river concessions and the self guided public. The waitlist system was only intended to work when supply was close to demand. As demand for non-commercial river trips has increased, supply has remanded static as the park refused to re-distribute allocation levels between the two groups.
The announcement attempts to justify the park’s reasons for choosing a weighted lottery. The announcement did not mention the park’s previous experience with a non-commercial lottery which was discontinued in the late 1970s due to overwhelming public dissatisfaction.
The park admitted that the wait for a non-commercial rafting permit is 15 to 30 years, but the agency did not mention that rafting hopefuls may now have an abysmal chance of ever winning a permit. The NPS announces that almost half of the present waitlist members will not be successful at obtaining a permit in the next ten years, if at all.
This system is being implemented while individuals who would like to use concessions river trip services can book a trip using 1-800 phone numbers and online reservations and take their trip this summer.
The park assumes there will be roughly 7,000 applicants for the lottery every year. Indications are that the Grand Canyon is the most sought after river permit in the country. A river runner’s chance of winning a Grand Canyon permit will be even worse than other popular lotteries like the Middle Fork of the Salmon and Selway Rivers. The park hopes to conduct the first non-commercial lottery later this summer.
By its own admission, the park is attempting to shift self-guided use into the dead of winter and away from the prime summer months, when at least 87% of river traffic is reserved for the park’s river concessions.
The park intends to transition the waiting list to the lottery between 2007 and 2011. The park will allow those already on the waiting list to combine their groups with others on the list into a single trip, thereby increasing their probability of success in the lottery. This gives the combined permit holders an advantage over those waitlist members who do not chose to travel with strangers but would instead like to travel with their own friends and family as they originally intended.
The park’s new river plan will allow summer time use for 15,862 commercial passengers (crew member bodies are not included) while during the same summer season only 2,270 self guided paddlers will have access to the Canyon.
Summer trip launches for non commercial river runners increase by 56 trips to 185 total launches, while river concessionaires have 476 launches. Non-commercial shoulder trips increase by 56 in the spring and 56 in the fall, and winter trips increase by 92.
See the Grand Canyon National Park website (http://www.nps.gov/grca/crmp) for additional information. For more detailed information on the NPS decision to discontinue the waitlist, please refer to the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Colorado River Management Plan, Volume II, section 220.127.116.11.