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Empty parks with no open sites.

wanderingaimles
Explorer
Explorer
An article on a study done in Colorado concerning booked sites and no shows, as well as some potential issues with park personnel saving sites.
rvtravel
If the story is true, Colorado is changing some rules that may help limit the empty but still not available sites in state parks.
46 REPLIES 46

Dutch_12078
Explorer
Explorer
phillyg wrote:
Don't know about the OP's particular circumstances, but I've been told in FL state parks, and in retail parks, once the reservation is made they cannot book someone else in it. I've seen sites empty for a week at a time, yet the park shows no vacancy. It's very frustrating.


You've heard wrong regarding FL state parks:

"No Shows"

"Park staff will hold reserved campsites or cabins until the applicable check-out time, one day after the scheduled arrival date. In the event that campers do not arrive for their reservation and the camper does not call the park directly to cancel, the remainder of the reservation will be canceled as a no-show. The remaining balance of the reservation, if any, will be refunded."

RESERVATION INFORMATION
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toedtoes
Explorer III
Explorer III
valhalla360 wrote:
cptqueeg wrote:
A CG has a duty to hold a pre-paid reservation for some amount of time which is up for discussion. And it is different if it's prepaid.

The issue of empty spots partly stems from the policy of allowing booking of sites that aren't available by booking days ahead of the desired period so days that aren't available to all now can be booked. Rec.gov has a 10 day waiting period after which reservations can be modified to release those nights, but some people don't and that leads to many unused sites.


It's people gaming the system. They have to open the sites to reservations at some point.
- If you base it on the first day of the reservation, the gamers book the week before and then cancel or just don't show up for the first week.
- If you base it on the last day of the reservation, those wanting to stay a week or two get shut out as weekenders take all the spots before the week-longers can book.

Really, not allowing reservation changes and your site is open to rebooking if you don't show up is the fairest option.

Yes, there is a holding period (usually the next morning or check in time the next day) but you should also call to confirm if you won't be showing up on time. That would allow the staff the option to release the site or not.


I agree.

In the end, different parks have different rules. Private campgrounds are more likely to follow a "if you paid for it, it's yours whether you use it or not". Public campgrounds are more likely to follow a "use it or lose it" policy.

The camphost at Lassen told me that if the no show camper called to cancel - even the day after the scheduled arrival dat - they would get their entire reservation fee refunded. By not calling, they forfeited one night's fee.
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valhalla360
Nomad III
Nomad III
cptqueeg wrote:
A CG has a duty to hold a pre-paid reservation for some amount of time which is up for discussion. And it is different if it's prepaid.

The issue of empty spots partly stems from the policy of allowing booking of sites that aren't available by booking days ahead of the desired period so days that aren't available to all now can be booked. Rec.gov has a 10 day waiting period after which reservations can be modified to release those nights, but some people don't and that leads to many unused sites.


It's people gaming the system. They have to open the sites to reservations at some point.
- If you base it on the first day of the reservation, the gamers book the week before and then cancel or just don't show up for the first week.
- If you base it on the last day of the reservation, those wanting to stay a week or two get shut out as weekenders take all the spots before the week-longers can book.

Really, not allowing reservation changes and your site is open to rebooking if you don't show up is the fairest option.

Yes, there is a holding period (usually the next morning or check in time the next day) but you should also call to confirm if you won't be showing up on time. That would allow the staff the option to release the site or not.
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cptqueeg
Explorer II
Explorer II
A CG has a duty to hold a pre-paid reservation for some amount of time which is up for discussion. And it is different if it's prepaid.

The issue of empty spots partly stems from the policy of allowing booking of sites that aren't available by booking days ahead of the desired period so days that aren't available to all now can be booked. Rec.gov has a 10 day waiting period after which reservations can be modified to release those nights, but some people don't and that leads to many unused sites.
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toedtoes
Explorer III
Explorer III
Most all public park systems have a requirement to provide "recreational opportunities to all". That doesn't mean just to those people who can afford to pay for a site and not show.

In addition, you are not BUYING the campsite, you are renting it. As with most all rentals, if you don't show to collect the item, they will cancel your reservation and rent the item out to someone else. Rental cars, tool rentals, hotel rooms, etc - they all have a standard requirement that you arrive within a certain window or your reservation is cancelled.

This is no different. If you cannot arrive within the allowed window (usually identified as between check in on your planned arrival date and check out the following day), then you failed to meet the contract requirements and the contract is null and void.

As with other rental systems, if you call before hand and let them know you will be delayed, most businesses will hold the rental for you. But if you show up at a hotel 3 days after your planned arrival, don't expect to have a room.
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Lantley
Nomad
Nomad
ferndaleflyer wrote:
As I said, I already paid for it. That example you use don't hold any water. What its worth, what it is close to, etc don't matter if I have paid the price they ask far a spot I have fulfilled my obligation and they should provide me what I paid for for as long as I paid for it even if I am not there.

The agreement is you paid for it with the understanding you would occupy the site it. If you fail to occupy the so called sale is void and the site become available to the next person.
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valhalla360
Nomad III
Nomad III
ferndaleflyer wrote:
As I said, I already paid for it. That example you use don't hold any water. What its worth, what it is close to, etc don't matter if I have paid the price they ask far a spot I have fulfilled my obligation and they should provide me what I paid for for as long as I paid for it even if I am not there.


But you didn't fulfill your obligation to occupy the site. The Contract you agreed to says they can resell the site without refund if you don't show up.

They offer sites at significantly below market value because it's a public service...you don't get to take sites out of use because you have money to waste.
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wanderingaimles
Explorer
Explorer
Years ago, NC state parks on Kerr lake required a 4 night minimum to reserve a site. Folks would reserve wed-sat nites, and only show up fri afternoon. Their plan had always been to only come for two nites, but they would pay for four to get a waterfront site.
I'm sure a lot of the cases all of you are talking about are something similar, folks willing to pay for extra nights, to get the ones they want.

dedmiston
Moderator
Moderator
I know that a lot of people game the system by paying for nights that they never intend to use. So yes, they've paid for them, but does that mean they're rightfully entitled to them? I don't think so.

Sometimes I'll pay for a first night even though I'm not sure whether I'm going to arrive late that evening or early the next morning before check-in. To me that's justified because I'm still arriving within that "day" (before the next day's check-in time).

I'm glad to see more entities taking steps to thwart people gaming the system.

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Durb
Explorer
Explorer
This is a hot button for me. I reserve the last spot at an Oregon State park and show up on a Wednesday to an empty park which fills on Friday. Families that want to take their kids camping can't get a reservation because the "seasoned pros" are gaming the reservation system and think since they paid for the site they own it. The systems should charge a "show up reservation fee" which would be refundable when they show up on time the first day of their reservation. No other excuses.

I used to pose this fee as $200, but am now suggesting $300 due to inflation. That doesn't work, increase it. Personally, I only make reservations I plan to keep.

ferndaleflyer
Explorer III
Explorer III
As I said, I already paid for it. That example you use don't hold any water. What its worth, what it is close to, etc don't matter if I have paid the price they ask far a spot I have fulfilled my obligation and they should provide me what I paid for for as long as I paid for it even if I am not there.

valhalla360
Nomad III
Nomad III
ferndaleflyer wrote:
So you think you should be given something I already paid for. Really?


But did you actually pay for it?

Let's take an example: Van Buren State Park in Michigan is a little over an hour from Chicago. It's 400 acres with a mile of prime beachfront that would be packed with weekend 2nd homes if it were resold as private parcels.

If you look at prices nearby, $3-5million houses on half an acre or less are common. Let's be generous and say the land is only worth $100million on the open market.

Do you really think $30/n on a 220 site campground that is only open in the summer is going to cover the cost of amortizing a $100million dollar property along with ongoing staff, maintenance and periodic upgrades?

Assuming 180days at 100% occupancy, it's going to generate just under $1.2million per year. If you had a 0% interest loan, it would take 83yrs to pay off if the staff and maintenance cost nothing. If you assume a modest 4% interest, it would be losing a few million per year before staff and maintenance costs.

Reality is they aren't going to be at 100% occupancy and likely are around break even or even losing money on staff & maintenance.

State parks typically have artificially low prices subsidized by the taxpayer in order to protect that land and provide recreational access to the taxpayer (even those who are not wealthy enough to just waste a reservation).

If you aren't going to use it, it should be returned to the reservation system to allow others access.
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rlw999
Explorer
Explorer
Tvov wrote:
One way to help this would be to make reservations 100% prepay in advance, and cancellations require a 2 week notice - or you lose your prepayment.

There have been so many times where I read about people using "the system" to reserve and cancel at popular places in order to get what they want. Fort Wilderness is a prime example of this - or at least was 10 years ago, the last time we were there.


I don't see how that would help. Especially at state parks where the site is so cheap that you can book sites on days you "might" want to go, and if you don't go, it's not that much money and you don't even bother to cancel, since you won't get a refund.

A better policy would be to allow refunds up to the day of arrival with, say a 50% penalty (if there's no penalty, people would just book every weekend until they decide when they want to go), at least that way there's incentive to cancel. They could even charge a no-show fee. You get 50% back if you cancel before arrival, but pay a $100 fee if you no-show without cancelling.

But this all assumes that the goal is to maximize the number of people that can enjoy the park -- in reality, parks don't care about non-refundable no-shows since they get paid without doing any work.

valhalla360
Nomad III
Nomad III
phillyg wrote:
Don't know about the OP's particular circumstances, but I've been told in FL state parks, and in retail parks, once the reservation is made they cannot book someone else in it. I've seen sites empty for a week at a time, yet the park shows no vacancy. It's very frustrating.


If you read the article, in Colorado, if a reservation doesn't show up after a certain time limit, the staff at the park are supposed to log in and cancel the reservation opening it up for other people (all per the terms of the reservation).

If the journalist is correct, staff were simply not going into the system to cancel no-shows or it was suggested, purposely gaming the no-shows to resell to friends and family.

I'm not sure about Florida state parks but private parks (retail parks) would just need to include a clause in the reservation that if you don't show up or notify the park in a certain time frame, they can resell the site and there is no refund but that's a different matter. Private parks are under no obligation to maximize the sites that are occupied. It's up to the owner to determine the policies and how much it is driven by profits.

Public parks have an obligation to the public (who are ultimately the owners) to make a reasonable effort to give access to the public. They should attempt to cover their costs but not at the expense of letting the public utilize the park.

If the article is correct, in Colorado, the staff are at the very least guilty of not doing their job and at worst committing some form of graft. If this was corrected, it sounds like a lot of sites would be recycled back into the reservation system allowing more people to utilize the parks.
Tammy & Mike
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ferndaleflyer
Explorer III
Explorer III
So you think you should be given something I already paid for. Really?