It’s now official: The requirement to file a Tour Plan for unit activities is no more.
The BSA released word to councils (some time ago) that the procedure would no longer be required. We announced it on Twitter on March 15 when word came down to the Commissioner staff. Now, they’ve publicly announced that the need to complete and file the multi-step questionnaire won’t stand in the way of your next weekend campout or trip to Philmont.
(And yes, like Scouting Magazine’s editor Bryan Wendell remarked, I thought it could be an April Fool’s joke until I checked with our council program director for confirmation.)
If you’ve been around a while, you’ll remember the old paper Application for Local Tour Permit that you had to complete and file with your local council two to three weeks before a trip or outing. The form took a lot of research, including listing the names and other information about all registered leaders and vehicle drivers. The form needed signatures from the unit leader and committee chair or chartered organization representative, and had to be sent to and approved by your local council two or three weeks in advance. There are no statistics on how many units skipped the process, but I’d bet it was fairly sizable.
The BSA migrated to an online form a couple years ago. The online form served as a notification to the council, rather than to seek its permission. It was not required if the unit was attending a BSA facility or event because they already knew you were coming.
The discontinuance of the tour plan doesn’t absolve units from making the necessary preparations and taking precautions to ensure the safety of participants. Leaders must still obtain permission from parents, and follow the rules appropriate for the outing as detailed in the Guide to Safe Scouting and other planning tools.
While filling out a form – no matter how complex – cannot reveal the full range of risks and hazards that a unit might encounter, it’s still a good eye-opener and conversation-starter, encouraging those planning an outing to think of the various potential pitfalls and how to plan to avoid or deal with them. I always viewed it as a good planning tool but not a substitute for following the rules and applying common sense.
A list of frequently-asked questions further explains the change, which took effect April 1.