Rhode Island officials are considering proposals from three companies that hope to provide a reservation service for the state parks system, according to the Providence Journal.
A state committee is reviewing the bids from US eDIRECT Inc., ReserveAmerica Holdings Inc. and InfoSpherix. Representatives from the top two candidates will be interviewed June 19. The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) director, W. Michael Sullivan, will select a winning bidder, and the company will be presented to the State Properties Committee for final approval.
“In this day and age, things have to be planned,” said Larry Mouradjian, associate director for natural resources management at the DEM. “We’ve received a lot of pleas to accept reservations.”
Campground managers say they regularly receive requests for reservations, and scores of potential visitors are discouraged by the first-come-first-served policy. For example, hundreds of potential campers waited in line for up to 12 hours on Memorial Day weekend for a crack at some 700 campsites in the Burlingame State Park in Charleston. But 100 were still turned away once the park was filled.
DEM officials, however, expect some opposition, recognizing that the change would disrupt the elaborate strategies campers have developed over decades to gain an advantage in the cut-throat competition for rustic real estate.
For years, campers have found ways to hand off a site, typically by leaving a day early and coordinating their departure with the arrival of a friend or relative.
Others make a special trip to a campground early in the week to deposit their trailer in the woods, some renting a campsite for five extra days so it is open when the weekend rolls around.
At Fishermen’s campground in Narragansett, the demand for sites was so fierce that the state instituted a complex reservation system that requires reservations to be solicited by mail.
To gain access to the campground – a “village” with tree-lined paths and tennis courts near Scarborough Beach and the Block Island ferry – campers race to send their requests starting Jan. 14, lining up at the main Providence post office before midnight the day before.
Despite careful time-stamping of letters, the DEM has faced accusations of political favoritism in renting the sites, and the system was the subject of a television investigation several years ago. (A similar system is used at Burlingame to rent 12 tiny cabins and a yurt.)
Although the lines are often daunting, the first-come-first-served system has also benefited last-minute planners and outdoors people with employers who do not schedule vacation days far in advance. Those willing to line up at 6 a.m. often end up with a campsite, even on holiday weekends.
“It’s going to be a big change,” Richard Jacques, a regional park manager for the DEM, said. “It’ll take a while for people to accept.”