Other SOTA sites: SOTAwatch | SOTA Home | Database | Summits | Video | Photos | Shop | Mapping | FAQs | Facebook | Contact SOTA

Permit Required W2/GC-020 state park lands

During my previous activation of W2/GC-020 in November, 2020, a park ranger ordered me to dismantle my antenna because I did not have a valid permit (although in the state park rules, ham radio is NOT LISTED as either a prohibited use or as a use requiring a special permit). The park director subsequently determined that SOTA or similar ham radio operations is an activity that requires a special use permit, especially with respect to erection of HF antennas. (The state park rules regarding antennas were obviously intended for cell sites or comm towers). After discussions and correspondence spanning 3-4 weeks, I was recently granted a non-transferable, 2 page special permit to erect my inverted vee wire antenna on a telescopic pole at a specific place (lat,long coords) approved by the director, and required to provide 24 hours notice if I plan to operate. I must personally sign-in at the visitor center. I have posted this notice on the W2/GC-020 page for information.
Mike, WB2FUV


Wow, Mike – that’s an awful lot of red tape for a SOTA activation! Thanks for following through with it and activating it again! I hope other state parks divisions don’t catch on to this. . .

73, Jim KK0U

WOW… Thanks for the update. That is an amazing and awful story. Can you send me the state park rules that reference antennas that you mentioned. Is it this:

Tom, N2YTF

Tom, N2YTF

Holy government overreach.

And for a 1 pointer too.


To add a little context, I’ve probably activated 175 times in the Catskills and Adirondacks, the two major mountain parks in New York State, and never once ran into this issue.

73, Barry N1EU

1 Like

We had to do that on the Outer Banks at a park one year as well. We did the paperwork and got the permit to operate.
We did that also at two state parks near Raleigh, NC and got permission to operate. I did get in a little spat with a ranger when he heard I had used a sling shot to put my weed eater lines up in the trees to set up some loop antenas. After talking with a supervisor and showing them that I used a Hyperdog and tennis balls to put the antennas up, and not shoot squirrels with the tennis balls we were ok with the park service.
de John Paul // AB4PP

This is where you went wrong.

Asked to stop by the ranger, do so. When he says you need a permit etc. smile and thank him and leave. Check rules for park etc. and see that ham radio is not listed as prohibited. At this point take a copy of the park rules with you for the next activation. When confronted show rules. You may be asked to leave so you do so. Life’s a bitch and then you die.

If you ask some minor official if you need permission they nearly always say yes because it bigs up their authority and you can set a precedence that others need to follow. From what you describe this is a massive over reach of authority. Non-transferable 2 page special permit… what a joke.



Or wait for the next government shut down :wink:

1 Like

Those rules look like they are geared more towards permanent installations. We aren’t “installing” anything, as that implies as least a semi-permanent presence.

(one thing it is not, is government overreach. It is the man in the field trying not to get fired interpreting rules written by lawyers who never thought of ham radio).

Thanks to efforts of the ARRL, the US Forest Service and Federal park rangers have been briefed on POTA (and thus SOTA). The POTA/SOTA is defined as “normal recreational activity” and is allowed. State park employees likely have not been so informed. Having a copy of your license to show, equating it to walkie-talkies for a different frequency, pointing out it has been defined as normal recreational activity (it isn’t a permanently installed tower), in a friendly manner has always worked for me. - fred kt5x


Thanks for your comments regarding my experience activating W2/GC-020. Others can use their own judgement concerning required permissions. I simply wanted to make everyone aware of the park policy as explained to me. Given the ecologically sensitive nature of the Sam’s Point Dwarf Pine Ridge Preserve, the park director has been very cooperative. I hope to activate this local peak frequently for SOTA and portable QRP so it was in my best interest to comply with the ruling. 73! Mike, WB2FUV

This hides a truth: not all parks are gazetted for the same reasons. Setting up a non permanent antenna may be an issue if you step on a hard to see critically endangered wildflower whilst pegging out a dipole leg. That could be considered bringing SOTA into disrepute. In other parks, SOTA may not be an issue.

I’d listen to the ranger and as they’ve been nice and cooperative, a bit of consideration back from all of us will go a long way to helping the situation change. I’d say you’ve done exactly the right thing.

I have had different results Fred and disagree on them being briefed on SOTA/POTA. I have been asked to pack up from 3 different forms of federally managed land, never state or county. First the parking lot of a NWR, 2nd a NF doing FD at a picnic table(didn’t even start cqing), and 3rd with a friend at a NP at a pullout on the side of the road. They are not well informed. The NWR was because it was not “one of the 8 permitted human uses of a refuge”, the NF he claimed it was a “structure”-I did not even have a mast but a wire to my truck and one branch then he changed his reason to it might interrupt others enjoyment of the area(I was doing cw with earbuds), and the NP because they were saying there was no “broadcasting” without permit. All three, well at least the last two, I think were due to very wrong interpretation of the public land rules. But with armed federal officers, I do not argue. At one he greeted me with hand on pistol, from behind while I had my earbuds in. An uneasy feeling. de AG7GP

When asked by National Park Rangers at the Grand Canyon National Park if I had a permit to operate Amateur Radio there, I simply said yes and then showed them my FCC License and explained it was my permit to pretty much operate anywhere. My tone was informative, not demanding (this is a big deal…don’t make them mad).

They called into the park headquarters and they confirmed it was OK for me to set up and operate there since I had a Federally issued license.

However you do need to be careful setting up, as tying antennas to trees and bushes is not allowed (you may hurt the Flora of the national Park). You also need to stay out of areas where someone might “clothesline” themselves in your antenna.

The other thing I have seen is if you ask for permission, an uninformed of the rules government employee will always deny your right to set up. To Government employees unsure of the rules it is safer for them to tell you NO than to risk loosing their job by saying OK to your request.



Yes, for sure in NP. Reason my friend set up in a gravel pull out and used no trees, etc. When I was in the NF everything was safe and clear. Nearby campers had clotheslines, line for garbage to keep high from critters, tents staked in ground. We are not sure what was on FLEO mind to target us. We do know he is no longer in this area. These experiences is one reason I lean towards sota vs parks. Rarely do I run into anyone here on a mountain. I do like the idea of stating the license is the permit.

Priceless! Have a :beer: for making me laugh out loud.

Classic case of rules being used to define and arbitrarily sanctify. The stricter the rules, the more special the place. Get used to it.

True but they do mention communication equipment----and they aren’t even rules—they are “policy” which I guess is meant to inspire the aggressive approach of the ranger and not to limit the ranger…

Can you link to a copy of that briefing or of the US Forest Service or Federal park policy saying hamming is a normal recreational activity? That would be helpful in lobbying the NYS Parks.

After being alarmed by WB2FUV’s post I contacted our regional ARRL person and highlighted this thread. There was no mention from her regarding a briefing to the USFS…it would be nice if we had that.

Tom, N2YTF

there was a thread on here some years ago I believe by K0MOS of Colorado regarding being confronted by a ranger on Mt Evans, which Matt took to the Superintendent with success. He had a place in national park rules that said “normal recreational activities,” are allowed, and said the park superintendent had decided that brief amateur radio activities fell under that, not under the “special use permit required for radio antennas” which does not clarify a difference between a cell phone tower and a wire on a fishing pole leaned against a bush. Frankly, the difference is so enormous that it is obvious.

As for the “briefing,” several years ago as we were hiking down off a mountain, we were met by two rangers in Bandelier National Monument who were wondering why we were parked where we were on a back country road. When we told them we were amateur radio operators activating Scooter Peak for Parks On The Air, this was that initial year of Parks On The Air, they immediately brightened up and answered, “oh yes, we have been briefed on you guys. You are doing nothing wrong, we are happy to have you doing this.”

Two years after that we were descending from another nearby peak, and met a ranger who was tracking us up. He said he was concerned we were hunting which isn’t permitted in Bandelier National Monument. We told him similarly that we were amateur radio operators activating the peak for Summits On The Air / Parks On The Air. He immediately perked up saying, “Oh, yes, I know all about you guys. You are very welcome.”

  • fred kt5x