The Adventure Pass Program: A Case in Favor
by Thom Carson
I wish to first applaud the work of the VWA and other organizations on
their effort to act as a watchdog for government involvement in our
Wilderness Areas. It is important work that must be done and I wish in no
way to detract from these efforts. The Adventure Pass issue, as I see it, is not IF fees
should be collected, but HOW they are spent. I do not claim the savvy in
the workings of the government that some of my detractors may claim. I only
know what I see.
I purchased my first Adventure Pass three years ago. I was outraged to have to drive all the way from Salinas to Greenfield to purchase a pass to go into a Wilderness Area. To rub it in further, the only place I was aware of that sold the pass was a LIQUOR STORE! Not my idea of a wilderness experience. But that was where the rangers in King City directed me so I went. The $30 for a year's pass seemed steep to me as I only wanted to try a few peaks in the Ventana. From my little view of the world, it seemed an odd way for the government to rip me off. My view has changed considerably since then.
In the past few years I have spent considerable time exploring the Ventana. I have used mainly the trailheads at The Indians, China Camp, Los Padres Dam and Bottchers Gap. The only one of these that is a non fee area is Los Padres Dam. The only trailhead I fear leaving my truck at is Los Padres Dam. It is a garbage heap. There are always undesirable types hanging around the lot, usually gulping down large quantities of alcohol. It is the only place I'm aware of that has constant problems with vandals, and last year several nice vehicles were torched there.
While relatively new to the Ventana, I am not new to hiking and climbing. Being what most of you would call a peak bagger (I prefer the term Summiteer), I have seen LOTS of trailheads all over the state. The vast majority of the trashed trailhead areas I have encountered have been no fee areas. Most of the trailheads I felt comfortable at were in fee areas. I don't like this correlation but I am a realist and accept what I see.
My most recent trip to Southern California to knock off six county highpoints opened my eyes even further. From my standpoint, the Adventure Pass now makes complete sense. I took my pass along to hit Mt Pinos and Sawmill Mountain in the Southern Los Padres District. I knew my pass would be good there. What I didn't realize is that I was able to use the pass on all but one of my other treks. In Orange County I needed it to get up to Santiago Peak. In Riverside County, I could have used it to climb up San Jacinto Peak but opted to take the tram up from Palm Springs to shorten the hike. In San Bernadino County, I needed it at the trailhead to San Gorgonio Peak. As I was trudging down San Gorgonio, it hit me. This makes sense. Most of the state's population can use the pass in most of the state's most popular Federal Forest areas. We have a pretty narrow view of the world here in Northern California sometimes. Our government is for the people. Where the most people are, they need the most control. The problems I have seen on our local non fee parking areas are not unique to this area. I can only imagine how the trailhead lots in the Southern California Forests would look if they were free. They were, without exception, in fine shape.
I consider the $30 per year a cheap investment in keeping our trailhead areas safer. For those who absolutely refuse to pay, they can park at Los Padres Dam, at "The Hoist" on Palo Colorado Road, or maybe along Highway 1 somewhere and roll the dice with their vehicle.
Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the contributor and do not reflect the views of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance or the majority of its members. And rebuttals, of course, are encouraged.