The new online reservation system touted as an upgrade for acquiring Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness travel permits failed and shut down quickly after going live last month. Now, the system could reopen Feb. 27.

The U.S. Forest Service announced the tentative date Friday after meetings earlier this week with northern Minnesota outfitters and business people, the contractor in charge of the website, and congressional staffers.

The Forest Service said in a statement that it is working on technical problems with the software; on planning training sessions for “permit cooperators,” such as outfitters; and on testing the site before it goes live to the public. After that, the agency said it will confirm a date.

“We deeply regret the difficulty this has caused, and I want to thank the members of the community who are working with us to make this transition to an online reservation system successful,” Superior National Forest Supervisor Connie Cummins said in the statement.

Jason Zabokrtsky of Ely Outfitting Company was present at meetings Feb. 4 and Monday to discuss the system rollout failure on recreation.gov. He, among others, complained about the planning and execution by the Forest Service and its contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton. Earlier this week, he said the contractor was evasive in meetings about the breadth of the problems with the system. (Related Star Tribune story here.)

Still, he told the Star Tribune on Friday after the Forest Service announcement that the agency’s  latest forecast “looks reasonable. I’m hopeful they promptly give us a plan/timeframe for testing and training.”

U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber’s office has organized a public meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday at Grand Ely Lodge in Ely, Minn., to discuss the permit system problems.

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