That annoying, harassing Adventure Pass

  Dear HCN,

In Southern California, Forest Service fees are implemented as an "Adventure" Pass. Passes are sold in retail stores, as well as Forest Service stations. Day-passes are $5. Annual passes are $30. Parking in the national forest without a pass on the dash is ticketable.

Independent of the dollar amount, it's an extremely annoying program. In national parks, entrance kiosks collect fees and no penalty is imposed if you happen to be in the park without paying. But the Adventure Pass is often inconvenient to get, and failure to obey makes you liable for a $100 fine. Consider the following situations:

  • A family from the East, not outdoors-aware and therefore totally innocent of Adventure Passes, is driving north out of Ojai, Calif., on their vacation in the West, when they see a tempting trail and walk up it for 15 minutes to get a feel for the country. On return, a $100 ticket for parking without an Adventure Pass is on the windshield.

  • A one-day pass is good for the calendar day. If I arrive at a campground at 9 p.m. and leave at 5 a.m. the next day, I must have two passes.

  • My wife and I have three cars between us. The annual pass can be arranged to cover two of them. But what about the third? I must have an extra pass for it.

  • Two of us plan a four-day shuttle hike, leaving a vehicle at both ends. That involves eight days' worth of day-passes. That's excessive. And if we get so enthralled with the outdoors that we spend an extra day out, both vehicles are liable for $100 fines.

  • At 7 p.m. Friday night, we decide a hard week deserves a night in a campground. Since Adventure Passes are virtually impossible to get at that time of night, the night out might cost a $100 fine. And I certainly do not want to trade valuable camping time for time spent running around looking for an Adventure Pass vendor.

  • I lost my annual pass. This is a personal failure in Adventure Pass management, but it is an annoyance nonetheless.

An outing should not be subject to such aggravations. The Adventure Pass is a horrid, unworkable and insulting program. It can't continue. The level of annoyance borders on harassment. I don't like it.

Tom Budlong
Los Angeles, California

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