Montana Considering Reservation System for Camping

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is considering a plan to allow campers to make reservations at 21 of the state’s 54 state parks.

“This is the top public-service request that we receive,” said Chas Van Genderen, FWP state parks administrator. “Judging from the hundreds of telephone calls and other forms of inquiries each year, the camping public fully expects the ability to plan ahead with the peace of mind of knowing exactly where they’ll be staying when they camp.”

A reservation will cost campers an extra $10 on top of the regular campground fee. The agency said 25 percent of the sites at campgrounds that allow reservations will remain on a first-come, first-served basis.

If approved, the reservation program could be in place by 2011. The agency is accepting public comment on the proposal through May 18.

Officials say the first-come, first-served system is breaking down because competition is causing some campers to occupy a campsite several days in advance of a weekend with an empty car or boat trailer to make sure they have a spot.

Van Genderen said that denies other campers a spot in what would otherwise be an empty space.

“Now we’re spending a lot of our energy trying to resolve campsite conflicts,” Van Genderen said. “We use our staff time trying to chase down those folks who are trying to save campsites.”

Last year, Montana State Parks hosted more than 2 million visits, up 12 percent from 2008.

“The current system often leads to people arriving a day or two early to secure a campsite for a weekend visit or driving long distances to a campground that may be full,” Van Genderen said. “That robs Montana families of time and money.”

Besides Montana, the only other state without a campsite reservations program for state parks is Alaska.

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