▶️ Central Cascades Wilderness Permit considered successful…except for no-shows

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Friday marked the last day of the Deschutes National Forest enforcing its wilderness permit system for the season.

The Central Cascades Wilderness Permit System was implemented in May, requiring day-use and overnight permits throughout the Mount Washington, Mount Jefferson, and Three Sisters Wildnerness areas.

Jean Nelson-Dean with the Deschutes National Forest says the permit system was an overall success.

“The feedback overall was really positive,” Nelson-Dean said.

It was a good first-go for a lot of adventurous people.

“We got 57,000 people almost out there on day-use permits,” Nelson-Dean said. “And about 24,000 people on overnight trips.”

Reservations were required for popular trails like Devils Lake, Green Lakes, and Tam McArthur.

Nelson-Dean says immediate improvements were seen.

“I think we certainly saw improvements in terms of garbage, those kinds of things, and those behaviors,” Nelson-Dean said. “There was just less conflict, less stress out there when people when people weren’t fighting over places and things and had a little bit more freedom to explore the wilderness without a lot of other people.”

However, the purpose of the permit system is to make a long-term difference.

“Our goal is meeting that balance of access for folks and also making sure that we’re maintaining those wildernesses,” Nelson-Dean said. “So generations from now can still have a wilderness experience.”

Nelson-Dean says only 13 wilderness citations were handed out this season, not all having to do with the permit system, but there was one common problem.

“No-shows,” Nelson-Dean said. “The number of people who made advanced reservations and then failed to show up.”

52% of reservations were made in advance of the season, and 27% were made during the 7-day rolling window.

Nelson-Dean says winter will be spent looking at data from this summer to nail down what improvements need to be made.

The permit system will be in-affect next season and for seasons to come.

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