Ram Promaster Forum banner

Florida State Parks - Really?

1245 29
A recent conversation with one of Florida’s State Park “kiosk sentries” has launched yet another of our bi-annual Anti-Campground Reservation System tirades. Before relating how Florida has further alienated would-be visitors and campers, we briefly summarize our position on the topic.

Few will disagree that the “Full Reservation System”, as adopted by an increasing number of premiere campgrounds, has dramatically altered how all of us obtain access to our campsites. For those accustomed to planning their every move a few months in advance, the Reservation System is a welcome tool. For those of us who prefer to wander and explore - - uncertain where the road leads - - we find ourselves locked-out of the increasing list of desirable camp locations.

We’ve been accused of being unable to adapt to the future. But implicit in that accusation is the assumption that “new is better”. No, it’s not that we’re unable to adapt - - merely that we’re unwilling.

When you’re reached that inevitable maturity (senior status), where time clocks along with the associated schedules that business and life demand, may be ignored and, further, when you've tasted the luxury of flexibility, you, too, may discover the joy of impromptu travel and conclude that, for all its advantages, the Reservation System doesn’t meet your needs, that ‘new’ isn’t always better.

Its unfortunate that the majority of those making the rules haven’t appreciated this ‘unintended consequence’ of the Reservation System and, moreover, the simplicity by which the needs of both the Planner and the Impromptu Traveler can be met - - split each campground’s sites into two groups: Reservable and Non-Reservable.

While we await the coming of our suggested miracle, we adapt as best we can. One truism of the Reservation System is that Reservations Only campgrounds ALWAYS have unused sites. This is counter intuitive. But campers continue to flow-into First-Come, First-Served campgrounds throughout any given day until every nook and cranny is occupied.

But Reservation Only campgrounds will always have no-shows or, even worse, those who ‘never intended to show’, those who, for example, reserve ‘their’ spot a few days in advance of their true, planned arrival, to ‘lock-in’ their real intention - - to occupy the site on a weekend or holiday. With this awareness, we often arrive late at these campgrounds after most who will actually camp, have already arrived. Yes, discerning the ‘no shows’ from the ‘late arrivers’ can be a challenge, but our track-record is good.

We may have wasted a little of your reading time because the “Florida issue” of which we currently rant, isn’t really one of ‘Reservations’ vs ‘First-Come, First-Served’. Indeed, we assumed correctly, that arriving late Sunday afternoon, still pre-season here in Florida, we would find a plethora of vacancies - - we wouldn’t have to guess which of the unoccupied sites were the no-shows. But, then, we didn’t know Florida.

We’ve all seen those signs “Campsites by Reservation Only”. We’ll spend little time trying to outline the consequences of such a restriction other than to note that we’ve never had any difficulty obtaining a campsite, if there are unreserved sites, by simply arriving at the campground office . . . at least, not until Sunday.

We pulled up to the entrance kiosk at Florida’s Lake Manatee State Park at 5:30pm, Sunday. The park attendant inquired if we had a reservation.

“No,” was our reply.
“Sorry, then you can’t camp here,” came her surprising response.
“You mean this park is full?” was all we could muster in our disappointment.
“No,” she continued, “we have lots of sites available, but you need a reservation.”

Here we digress to inquire: Are we really reserving a camp site when we arrive, pay for, and immediately occupy an otherwise unreserved campground site? To us, a ‘reservation’ implies securing something for some future occupation. But until this unlikely encounter, no one, anywhere, had ever argued the meaning of “reservation” - - nor suggested that “Reservation Only” actually required doing something in advance if unreserved sites were available. All, everywhere, have gladly accepted our money and given us leave to occupy the otherwise unreserved site. It’s seems Florida both agrees with our definition of reservation (as an in advance activity) and uncompromisingly intends on enforcing such definition.

“Ok,” we continued, “how do we make the required reservation?”
“You can’t, you’re too late. We don’t accept reservations at this park, or any Florida State Park, after 1pm,” was the answer.

After a few ‘you’re kidding, of course’ type comments we asked for this confirmation:

“Let’s be sure we understand, you can have a nearly empty campground . . . and you will not accept any drive-up campers if they arrive after 1pm? You will let those dozens of unreserved campsites remain empty and unused, indeed, unusable?”

Her answer was “Yes”.

Florida has taken “Reservations Only” to a new level of absurdity. What’s really amazing about this is that . . . in all our past ‘discussions’ with forum members and others concerning the Reservation System”, often the conversation devolves into a discussion of the abuses of the Reservation System and that these abuses, as noted above, guaranty that there will always be unused sites at such campgrounds. Even the most ardent advocates of the Reservation System acknowledge this to be wasteful . . . but consider it a ‘waste’ that must be accepted because we can never now whether that empty site is a ‘no show’ or ‘late arrival’.

But in Florida they’re creating even larger wastes - - and with what justification? An arbitrary administrative rule? How is it that the remainder of the country has found a means to parcel their unreserved sites to drive-in campers?
1 - 20 of 30 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
76 Posts
Righteous rant, but it may be that you just encountered an over officious park attendant rather than official policy.

A quick check of the state website Reservation Information finds this statement.

"All campsites or cabins not reserved or occupied may be rented to walk-in visitors on a first-come, first-served basis."

Personally, I don't stay at state or federal parks, but I can understand the frustrations of seeing reserved but unused sites, but on the other side, you have to consider the Jerry Seinfeld view on reservations.
 

·
Super Moderator
2018 136" HR
Joined
·
1,216 Posts
Its hard to said if the unoccupied site is truly unoccupied. We have mixed bag of experiences where during the day its not occupied but by the next morning the whole campsite is mostly full. But other time, its just as empty the next morning. Also I don't know if the campground ranger can really enforce the the rule if its not occupied the first night. A lot of time the campground ranger is only there during the day time so they don't know if the camper came late and left early.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
408 Posts
Winston,

Sounds like you have a case here. I would print that page @ObvB linked to and show it when you have a problem getting a first come first served site in Florida.

Also, remember a lot of the park employees are volunteers and not the final authority. Might be necessary to find the Park Manager and ask him or her.
 

·
Registered
2019 118" Silver
Joined
·
2,065 Posts
Florida has been largely anti-boondock for some time too. Parking limits of 3 hours tend to be the rule across the state and unless marked otherwise, parking more than 3 hours is Illegal and strictly enforced. As far as places like Walmart, Cracker Barrel and truck stops you have to check diligently or you will get a knock and be fined. Some wildlife management areas allow overnight parking although I understand most now require a permit for overnight use. When I drove through a WMA a couple years ago, hoping to stay and enjoy seeing some wildlife, it was packed with hunters and since flying bullets seems especially unsafe on flat land I kept going...ending up in a crowded private campground at dusk in time for mosquitos and who knows what other insects to feast on me. Got mauled. It was ok to live there 6 months in the early 70's and to visit a couple times since but now that a friend has sold his place and moved out of FL I doubt I'll ever go back.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
34 Posts
Righteous rant, but it may be that you just encountered an over officious park attendant rather than official policy.

A quick check of the state website Reservation Information finds this statement.

"All campsites or cabins not reserved or occupied may be rented to walk-in visitors on a first-come, first-served basis."

Personally, I don't stay at state or federal parks, but I can understand the frustrations of seeing reserved but unused sites, but on the other side, you have to consider the Jerry Seinfeld view on reservations.
I was going to post the exact clip
 

·
Registered
2014 136” HR
Joined
·
7,691 Posts
It would be nice if they charged a hefty no-show fee. Of course that would entail someone driving around to all the campsites late at night.
Very simple. There is something you pick up or sign when you get there. If it’s not done by X:00am, you get fined. It’s unlikely someone else is going to do it for you.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,100 Posts
Agree the reservation system is terrible. What people (especially administrators of these parks) don't realize is that the cost to offer these campsites to the public is much much more than the amount they charge visitors. The fees at most cover day to day operations, if they covered real estate and other costs these campsites would cost a fortune. So, by letting the sites go unused the taxpayer is losing money on their investment and ownership of the parks and the public that wanted but could not get a site is being robbed of experiences that they paid for.

The only solution I can think of is a no show fee. Of course if they charged 3x as much for the campsite that would effectively be the same as a no show fee.

Finally, from the perspective of the park operators filling the sites via reservations and having a high rate of no shows effectively means they have less work to do, a perverse incentive which in a poorly managed park could result in a gate attendant or other workers being unaccommodating to non reservation campers.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
164 Posts
We have also been frustrated by the number of unfilled but reserved campsites in Texas. The system is pretty ridiculous, but I think it eases trouble for bureaucrats. And since most of us nomad-style campers are camping in places outside our own states, we have very little influence. I don't understand why the campgrounds don't either keep a section of walk-in sites OR require a hefty extra fee upon reservation that is refundable only if the camper actually shows up. I vividly recall camping at a site in Texas where almost ALL the reservable sites were marked as filled, and we got the last of 2 available sites. By evening, the campground was largely empty. And the same thing in the morning. It was simply cheaper for people to reserve a site because they might want to camp that weekend and then forgo the cost if they changed their minds. Really a sad situation, and the only remedy I can think of (short of setting aside a certain percent as walk-in sites) is the deposit, nonrefundable for no-shows. We have suggested it multiple times, but only get grim smiles and shrugs in response. The system is messed up because people somehow think privatizing systems that are supposed to serve people (via the reserve America system, etc.) is a good idea. It's obviously not, and it is wrecking camping for many.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,840 Posts
Sometimes plans don't come together so perfectly.

There have been more times than I care to admit that my trip home from a business trip was delayed for one reason or another. The few vacations that I had were often delayed at the last minute due to work related challenges.

If we reserve / book a spot - we have paid for it and in my mind - it is ours to use, not for someone else to take.

When I book a spot, hotel room or camp site it should be reserved for me and my family - even if we are running late.

I completely agree that both private and publicly owned campgrounds need to expand rather dramatically. There should be a goal to increase the available capacity by 4 - 5x across the country.

(added) By late - I mean it might be a day late.
 

·
Super Moderator
2018 136" HR
Joined
·
1,216 Posts
If we reserve / book a spot - we have paid for it and in my mind - it is ours to use, not for someone else to take.

When I book a spot, hotel room or camp site it should be reserved for me and my family - even if we are running late.
I think running late is fine, which we have arrived at the campsite pass midnight but if they can't make it, there should be a system to cancel or incentive for the camper to cancel the campsite so others that are already there can use it. I do like the idea of extra refundable fee you get back after checking in, just extra incentive to cancel their spot if they can't make it instead of leaving empty.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
309 Posts
There are many places that have the policy that you must occupy your site on the first night of the reservation (and all subsequent nights). If you don't, your reservation is cancelled and you forfeit it.
The only issue that I have had personally in this area is that we were schedule to camp in the Redwoods for two night and had reservations all made, this in the middle of a three week trip. Due to a major mechanical issue, we were going to miss the first night. Called them, let them know and they were all good and released that site for a night and when we got there we still had the site for a night. This was during the middle of the week in the summer. For sure some people game the system, it is very easy to put rules in place and enforce them to stop that. For sure have ~10% of sites as FCFS actually works well.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,840 Posts
It isn't like there isn't room for most public areas to expand their camping / parking areas.

It has more to do with will power and adapting to the reality that some people like to hike into the backwoods and sleep on the ground. Some people either don't want to do that - or in my case - simply cannot.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Wyoming07

·
Premium Member
2016 3500 ext-ht
Joined
·
1,227 Posts
A recent conversation with one of Florida’s State Park “kiosk sentries” has launched yet another of our bi-annual Anti-Campground Reservation System tirades. Before relating how Florida has further alienated would-be visitors and campers, we briefly summarize our position on the topic.

Few will disagree that the “Full Reservation System”, as adopted by an increasing number of premiere campgrounds, has dramatically altered how all of us obtain access to our campsites. For those accustomed to planning their every move a few months in advance, the Reservation System is a welcome tool. For those of us who prefer to wander and explore - - uncertain where the road leads - - we find ourselves locked-out of the increasing list of desirable camp locations.

We’ve been accused of being unable to adapt to the future. But implicit in that accusation is the assumption that “new is better”. No, it’s not that we’re unable to adapt - - merely that we’re unwilling.

When you’re reached that inevitable maturity (senior status), where time clocks along with the associated schedules that business and life demand, may be ignored and, further, when you've tasted the luxury of flexibility, you, too, may discover the joy of impromptu travel and conclude that, for all its advantages, the Reservation System doesn’t meet your needs, that ‘new’ isn’t always better.

Its unfortunate that the majority of those making the rules haven’t appreciated this ‘unintended consequence’ of the Reservation System and, moreover, the simplicity by which the needs of both the Planner and the Impromptu Traveler can be met - - split each campground’s sites into two groups: Reservable and Non-Reservable.

While we await the coming of our suggested miracle, we adapt as best we can. One truism of the Reservation System is that Reservations Only campgrounds ALWAYS have unused sites. This is counter intuitive. But campers continue to flow-into First-Come, First-Served campgrounds throughout any given day until every nook and cranny is occupied.

But Reservation Only campgrounds will always have no-shows or, even worse, those who ‘never intended to show’, those who, for example, reserve ‘their’ spot a few days in advance of their true, planned arrival, to ‘lock-in’ their real intention - - to occupy the site on a weekend or holiday. With this awareness, we often arrive late at these campgrounds after most who will actually camp, have already arrived. Yes, discerning the ‘no shows’ from the ‘late arrivers’ can be a challenge, but our track-record is good.

We may have wasted a little of your reading time because the “Florida issue” of which we currently rant, isn’t really one of ‘Reservations’ vs ‘First-Come, First-Served’. Indeed, we assumed correctly, that arriving late Sunday afternoon, still pre-season here in Florida, we would find a plethora of vacancies - - we wouldn’t have to guess which of the unoccupied sites were the no-shows. But, then, we didn’t know Florida.

We’ve all seen those signs “Campsites by Reservation Only”. We’ll spend little time trying to outline the consequences of such a restriction other than to note that we’ve never had any difficulty obtaining a campsite, if there are unreserved sites, by simply arriving at the campground office . . . at least, not until Sunday.

We pulled up to the entrance kiosk at Florida’s Lake Manatee State Park at 5:30pm, Sunday. The park attendant inquired if we had a reservation.

“No,” was our reply.
“Sorry, then you can’t camp here,” came her surprising response.
“You mean this park is full?” was all we could muster in our disappointment.
“No,” she continued, “we have lots of sites available, but you need a reservation.”

Here we digress to inquire: Are we really reserving a camp site when we arrive, pay for, and immediately occupy an otherwise unreserved campground site? To us, a ‘reservation’ implies securing something for some future occupation. But until this unlikely encounter, no one, anywhere, had ever argued the meaning of “reservation” - - nor suggested that “Reservation Only” actually required doing something in advance if unreserved sites were available. All, everywhere, have gladly accepted our money and given us leave to occupy the otherwise unreserved site. It’s seems Florida both agrees with our definition of reservation (as an in advance activity) and uncompromisingly intends on enforcing such definition.

“Ok,” we continued, “how do we make the required reservation?”
“You can’t, you’re too late. We don’t accept reservations at this park, or any Florida State Park, after 1pm,” was the answer.

After a few ‘you’re kidding, of course’ type comments we asked for this confirmation:

“Let’s be sure we understand, you can have a nearly empty campground . . . and you will not accept any drive-up campers if they arrive after 1pm? You will let those dozens of unreserved campsites remain empty and unused, indeed, unusable?”

Her answer was “Yes”.

Florida has taken “Reservations Only” to a new level of absurdity. What’s really amazing about this is that . . . in all our past ‘discussions’ with forum members and others concerning the Reservation System”, often the conversation devolves into a discussion of the abuses of the Reservation System and that these abuses, as noted above, guaranty that there will always be unused sites at such campgrounds. Even the most ardent advocates of the Reservation System acknowledge this to be wasteful . . . but consider it a ‘waste’ that must be accepted because we can never now whether that empty site is a ‘no show’ or ‘late arrival’.

But in Florida they’re creating even larger wastes - - and with what justification? An arbitrary administrative rule? How is it that the remainder of the country has found a means to parcel their unreserved sites to drive-in campers?
Blame it on our neighbors to the North? Although I don't agree, some have. Deep inside this article:

 

·
Registered
MMXVI - L2H2 in Indiana
Joined
·
6,419 Posts
I was curious about overnighting in an Ohio State park. So I just checked with Ohio State Parks and Watercraft, (they use the same contractor for the reservation system) they highly recommend getting a reservation because they don't allocate walk-in sites, but yes you can just show up and get a site if available. So if I run into an uninformed employee or volunteer I just open the email.
 

·
Registered
2016 136WB low roof diesel, converted to an RV by Sportsmobile, TX
Joined
·
575 Posts
IMHO, there are several things that can be done:
1) Keep some first come first serve sites. Part of the problem is an artificial scarcity: with all sites being reservation only, people will reserve a site they might want, consuming the resource. And when people see all the sites reserved, that increases their feeling they need to reserve sites they may not need, "just in case". If people know they are some number of FCFS sites, that reduces the perception of scarcity.
2) Of the reserved sites, let only some of them be reserved a long time out, and keep others for reservation only 2 weeks out, or even 48 hours. This helps the more spur of the moment campers have some shot of reserving a site, and again, will reduce the perception of scarcity.
3) When making sites available, don't make all the sites available at the same time. Let one site become available at 10:00, one at 10:00+random(15 to 60) minutes, etc. That makes it harder for bots to snipe the sites.
4) Don't let people reserve sites at more than one park on the same day. This way, people cannot say "Maybe I'll do Yellowstone, maybe I'll to Tetons, heck I'll just reserve both."
5) Keep track of a person's no-shows. If a person has more than 3 no-contact no-shows in 6 months, don't let them reserve sites. A "no contact" no show means no call, no update online, just didn't show up. Of course you have prevent sock puppet accounts - track the cards used to pay and the billing addresses thereof. Also track no shows with notice - after all, if a person is constantly calling in saying "uuuhhhh, my tire blew out", you can figure either they don't understand vehicle maintenance or they are purveyors of post-consumption cattle feed.
6) Aggressively enforce the idea that a site must be occupied by e.g. 1700, and any site not occupied by then will be released (unless notice is given). I know that can suck; I am one who often gets in late, due to the distances I have to travel, but I will know in advance and can inform them "I will be there in 3 hours." And I also admit it's annoying when you are tying to bed down, and then somebody pulls in late and makes a racket getting set up. (When I do a late pull in, my set up is stop, put the parking brake on, and shut down. Maybe plug in the power. Anything else can wait until morning.)
 
1 - 20 of 30 Posts
Top