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Old 06-11-2014, 04:50 PM   #1
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Default More efficient campsite checkin?

Ya just gotta love progress!

A couple of days ago we got to Lake Louise State Park in South Dakota for an overnight while going further west. Small park,during the week, so no attendant was no surprise. A sign on the entry board says you need to get your site by going on the internet to campsd (3rd party reservation handlers), or by calling them. Only phone if you didn't have coverage was a payphone at the entrance. No reserved tags on any posts, or occupied tags on sites in use, so no idea what was open. We had a good internet connection,so we were able to go that way,being able to see what was available etc, but if you were on the payphone , you wouldn't know what was available until you called and were far from the sites.

So the bottom line was that we got the privilege of paying a $7.70 reservation fee to reserve a site that we were already sitting in, for that day, and spending lots of time to do it. Plus no site tag, so if you left for a while, nobody would know the site was occupied. There were lots signs hanging in the bathrooms about being sure to register by phone or internet, or you could get booted from your site.

When we went for a walk around the park, we saw the old self register box that has always worked fine for us (used one here in Devils Tower yesterday). They need to go back to it.

It seems to be system designed by an out of touch cost cutter, who figures everyone should be happy to pay more, and waste time, to make him look good. Obviously, whoever set it up never used it to see how it worked.
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Old 06-11-2014, 06:32 PM   #2
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Default Re: More efficient campsite checkin?

Bummer. Hope the rest of your trip is going much better.

Regards, Dick
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Old 06-11-2014, 07:22 PM   #3
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Default Re: More efficient campsite checkin?

I'm a high-tech nerd, but it seems that an electronic system that required the park to install Internet access would cost a whole lot more than a self-register box with paper site tags. They'd have to run the equipment 24/7 and they'd have to pay someone to design, develop and maintain the system. Electricity, custom software, wi-fi antennas and computer programmers aren't cheap. It's another case of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
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Old 06-11-2014, 08:13 PM   #4
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Default Re: More efficient campsite checkin?

Sounds like a system where they will get screwed out of their fees most of the time. Only people who could get caught not paying are those that stay multiple days.

Only a theory though, as I'd never do such a terrible thing
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Old 06-12-2014, 01:49 AM   #5
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Default Re: More efficient campsite checkin?

Pay by phone or an app on a smartphone is growing. The city of Galveston, TX has removed parking meters and now has you use an app for paying by credit card for parking on its streets. The 8 mile long sea wall parking is that way and I didn't see any enforcement going on unless they were doing it with cameras. I'm guessing it is more an honor system. Galveston can't really lose. The parking was free a year ago so any money will pay for the signs in a week.
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Old 06-12-2014, 02:55 AM   #6
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Default Re: More efficient campsite checkin?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dicktill
Bummer. Hope the rest of your trip is going much better.

Regards, Dick

Really a minor glitch in the big picture, but sure is one of those "what were they thinking?" moments.

With all the security leaks we have seen lately, it really doesn't seem like a good idea to be having your payment info going to everywhere, for every little thing.
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Old 06-12-2014, 03:18 AM   #7
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Default Re: More efficient campsite checkin?

Since we don't own smartphones or have internet access in our van we would have probably left and looked for somewhere else to camp. I don't know if I am ready to move up in the world yet, I seem to be pretty happy in the "old" world, but heck that change in a moment. Have a good trip Booster.
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Old 06-12-2014, 04:50 AM   #8
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Default Re: More efficient campsite checkin?

Quote:
Originally Posted by AK49er
Since we don't own smartphones or have internet access in our van we would have probably left and looked for somewhere else to camp. I don't know if I am ready to move up in the world yet, I seem to be pretty happy in the "old" world, but heck that change in a moment. Have a good trip Booster.
Nah, I would have just stayed and if someone questioned me I would say no phone, what can I do? We stayed in a state park in Indiana this spring. We got there late and the instructions were to pay at the office in the morning. There was no self pay station. First, there was no instruction as to where the office was. After we figured it out we went to the office and the person there did not know what to do with our payment. We could have left easily without paying but we foisted the money at her and said you figure it out. I imagine others might have camped free in the same situation. For all we know she may have pocketed the money.
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Old 06-12-2014, 12:59 PM   #9
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Default Re: More efficient campsite checkin?

I had a nice talk last summer with a camp host at a state park. This park is actually "run" and maintained by the host and in return they get a free campsite & utilities.

They were grumbling that they collect all this money (I was surprised at how much it really was) and they can't get any funds to improve or maintain the park. They only see a ranger once a week who only seems to care that they are collecting the money.

I thought the park was nice - at least it was neat, but I'm sure everything was fairly old. If things are built to last in the first place, being old isn't a problem. But eventually, sidewalks and curbs get broken, roads get potholes, picnic tables rot, etc. I don't really know what they'd do if a tree came down. Guess everyone would have to just work around it until the bureaucracy could deal with it.
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Old 06-12-2014, 11:47 PM   #10
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Default Re: More efficient campsite checkin?

I stayed in a National Forest campground that was just what I wanted. I was looking for tall trees, quiet, maybe a babbling brook. I carefully drove down 8 miles of dirt road to get there. It was everything that I wanted and was completely empty. I chose a campsite and went looking for the self-pay station.

The pay box was covered over and there was a sign saying that after I choose my campsite, I should drive to the administrative offices for the National Forest to register and pay. It gave an address. According to my nav system, the office was a 34 mile drive from the campsite.

I just put the fee in an envelope on the windshield and decided to pay the next day as I drove past the office. I wasn't going to drive 70 miles to register in an empty, out of the way, campground well off the beaten path.
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Old 06-16-2014, 05:45 PM   #11
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Default Re: More efficient campsite checkin?

This would definitely be something solvable by three things:

1: An envelope dispenser and some pens well-tethered.
2: An "Iron Ranger".
3: An ATM, or some offline credit card reader that would allow one to buy a token or chit to place in item #2 to register their spot.

If one wanted to get fancy, there could be an app that one would use with PayPal that allowed one to put a confirmation code on the envelope.

3G chips are available for dirt cheap. If no cell signal is possible, then offline credit card validation can be used. Of course, envelopes and a drop safe have stood the test of time as well.

There is getting fancy for fancy's sake, then there are solutions that work and don't cause more problems/expense than they purport to solve.
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Old 06-16-2014, 10:15 PM   #12
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Default Re: More efficient campsite checkin?

Quote:
Originally Posted by AK49er
Since we don't own smartphones or have internet access in our van we would have probably left and looked for somewhere else to camp. I don't know if I am ready to move up in the world yet, I seem to be pretty happy in the "old" world, but heck that change in a moment. Have a good trip Booster.
We now have a smartphone which I'm slowly mastering but I would have probably looked for somewhere else to stay, too, time and circumstances permitting. We asked about same day reservations in Florida a few years back at a SP and were told no problem. Even though the same online reservation warnings were posted. We've also had problems finding someone to take our money (Glacier NP during the first government shutdown a few years ago), no envelopes left at the iron ranger and no human backup (Yellowstone), and grab a spot and settle up in the morning (Grand Canyon North Rim). We've even had someone try to squat on our site even though there was a valid site tag on our post. Our neighbors saw what was happening and advised the interlopers of their faux pas, and asked them to move along. Last trip we couldn't get a spot at GCSR due to over capacity and were told to use a USFS campsite at the South edge of Tusayan. They said it was dispersed camping and was free. Cool.
We just try to do the best we can, and it usually works out in the long run.
We'll be expecting a full trip report upon your return, booster. Technical and aesthetic.
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Old 07-02-2014, 08:13 PM   #13
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Default Re: More efficient campsite checkin?

Just got back from a trip to Seward and seen that the Iron Ranger has gone "uptown"! It now takes credit cards. It is a new process for us up here but may be the norm for you folks outside. You can slide your card in and select your site and it will print out all the info needed for your stay. It still has the low tech method of cash in the box, which we used, but still kinda cool I guess. I guess it wont be long before we don't have to carry any cash anywhere, it'll stay in the banks where it belongs.
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Old 07-03-2014, 12:45 PM   #14
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Default Re: More efficient campsite checkin?

That makes more sense to have a way to use debit/credit right at the campground. Was it a commercial campground or State/NPS/BLM type?
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Old 07-03-2014, 04:08 PM   #15
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Default Re: More efficient campsite checkin?

There is a hodge podge of campgrounds in Seward but the big water front park campground is confusing and is essentially a huge parking lot. I've seen it listed as city, county and state. It is also a mix of dry camping and hookup camping depending on the site you find. It is a first come first serve. We scored this dry site backed up right on Ressurection Bay and stayed there 4 nights. It was a self-pay site.

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Old 07-03-2014, 04:51 PM   #16
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That's the one we stayed at. We made it one whole day there as we are not used to so many people cramped together in one place. The foot race up the mountain starts this weekend and every spot wide enough to fit a RV will be filled (Mt. Marathon). Seward has a long running Silver Salmon derby in August and again it will be packed for about 2 weeks.
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