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When we ran that Telegraph Hill Hunt game a few months back, we started in San Francisco's Washington Square. Not wanting the cops to roust us from the park, we sought permits. But in the end, we didn't get permits. This is the story of how we failed to get permits, mixed in with not too much ranting, maybe?

We knew the Shinteki folks ran excellent legit permitted games in San Francisco, so we asked their advice. Did we even need a permit for 100 people in a big park? If so, what kind of permit did we need, and how should we get it? Linda suggested that I head over to the Parks & Rec office in Golden Gate Park's Pioneer Cabin to ask around. This was probably good advice, though it didn't turn out so well…then again, it's not like there's some other plan that would have worked better—sorry, am I getting ahead of myself? I'm getting ahead of myself. Anyhow:

When I asked at the Pioneer Cabin, I just got a lot of shrugs. Folks suggested that I fill out a permit request form online. (I'd balked at doing this: it costs the applicant $60 for the city to process the form and I still didn't know if we'd need a permit.) And I should do it soon: in theory, I should have submitted it two months ahead of the event. For a little event like ours, probably one month would be enough. Fortunately, we still had a month. So…I'd visited an office, just to be told to fill out an online form. So… that wasn't so useful. You might wonder: Why do I still think Linda from Shinteki gave me good advice telling me to visit that office?

On my way out the door of the office, one of the workers chased me down and handed me a business card. The card was for a certain Parks & Rec worker who wasn't in the office that day. But she was a good person to talk to—maybe I should talk to her before I filed that form. It would be a pity to pay to file the form, only to find out that someone else had already reserved the park for the day. This worker would know whether the park was available.

I didn't do that—in theory, I was already late to file the form. Waiting a few more days for that lady to come back would have made us even later. But in hindsight, now I wish I'd waited. In hindsight, the impression that I get of these folks were that there were many of them who didn't know what was going on and a few who did. If you asked a question and none of the knowledgeable folks were around, all you got back were shrugs. In hindsight, I wish I'd gone to that cabin three months ahead of game day—two months for the form-time and a little extra wiggle room. And if I couldn't get answers to my questions, I would have had time to come back when one of the knowledgeable folks was back from vacation or whatever.

Instead, I filed the form. Several days later, someone from Parks & Rec looked at the form. After some back and forth, she had bad news: We couldn't use Washington Square as the start of our hunt because 100 people was too many to fit in that park. Folks who were at the hunt or folks familiar with that park (which takes up a city block) know it's plenty big enough to hold 1000 people, let alone 100.

So we came up with an alternate plan to have teams start the hunt at an intersection a few blocks away and then go to Washington Square. If the game didn't start in the park, maybe there would be room? The Parks folks had me submit a map of the park showing where I expected players to be. So I got to exercise my computer paint skills. I was kinda expecting the outcome of that to be a sheepish parks person saying "Oh, a hundred people? I misread the form and thought you had a hundred thousand people. Of course they'll all fit in the park." But this was not the case. Instead, the Parks folks wanted hundreds of dollars for costs including a bunch for re-seeding an area that players couldn't go to because it was fenced off so it could be reseeded after the Columbus Day Parade oh have I started ranting I promised myself I wasn't going to rant.


In the end, we ran the game without a parks permit. We started at Washington Square, not a few blocks away. Nobody hassled us; police saw us but didn't come over to ask about permits or anything. We had "too many" folks in Washington Square and the world didn't end. We collected money from teams, which I later on found out was against park rules, so I'd do that differently next time. Yeah, that and try harder to talk with a knowledgeable parks person ahead of time. (Or instead of filing a parks permit, just reserve a picnic table… if it's in a park with reserve-able picnic tables, unlike Washington Square.)

And I still don't know what the rules are for what sorts of events require a Parks permit.

Tags: puzzlehunts drama

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