Third-Party Service Causes Debate Over CA State Park Camping Reservations

Back in August of 2017, California State Parks completely overhauled their system for reserving campsites.

Simply put, they switched from a “block” reservation period (or “on-sale” day, restricted to the first day of every month only) to a “rolling window” allowing visitors to reserve a campsite six months in advance on any given day throughout the month.

The six-month window was intended to make it easier for campers to reserve sites, but the new reservation system has many California residents frustrated and unable to book the sites they want on the days they want.

As a recent story in The Orange County Register notes, the new system “was meant to make reservations easier, but has prompted an increase in campers complaining it’s actually harder to nab a spot.”

Information officer for California State Parks Jorge Moreno told The Register, “We continue to receive input and feedback from our visitors on the new reservation system. While some visitors are having no issues making reservations, others are.”

Further muddying the new system is a third-party website, First Choice Reservations, that offers would-be campers a service to get the campsite they want on the date they want for a fee. That fee nearly doubles what one would pay for a campsite, and also makes it even more competitive to get a campsite without using a service like this.

Head of First Choice Reservations Jonathan Dean told The Register, “From our perspective – we provided a software solution, just like a lot of software companies out there. We provide software in a form of a service to pay for or use, to get something they want or raise the chances to get something they want. I would say we definitely raise the probability of our customers being successful.”

He also touts that customers have around an 80-percent success rate for getting the campsites they want on the dates they want. While that can be seen as a thing that makes it easier for campers to reserve a specific site, it can also be seen as another roadblock in that it makes it more expensive to get the site you want now.

With the busy summer camping season coming up, if you’re looking to shore up a specific campsite in a California State Park, hopefully luck is on your side.

h/t The O.C. Register

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