Exclusionary effects of campsite allocation through reservations in U.S. national parks

David Blackwell

Active Member
Platinum Supporting Member
May 10, 2017
144
San Diego, CA
I hope the community finds the attached study interesting.

Reference Info:
Pre-print ahead of press: Rice, W. L., Rushing, J. R., Thomsen, J. M., & Whitney, P. (2022).
Exclusionary effects of campsite allocation through reservations in U.S. national parks:
Evidence from mobile device location data. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration.
 

Attachments

  • RiceRushingetal JPRA.pdf
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theseus

Living the Darkside...
Silver Supporting Member
Feb 6, 2007
3,498
Centerville, OH
I could open it. I spent most of my life in academia and skimmed the report (like most people will). It looks like they are saying that socioeconomic factors play into if you can get a reservation. The report says managers should make it more clear how to get reservations in top places and that this needs to broadly disseminated. It didn't appear to me to make a definitive conclusion either and says there needs to be more reports.

The authors are academics in Montana who study land management.
 

Lug_Nut

Active Member
May 29, 2016
243
Mt. Wachusett area, MA
Don't bother. Unless you need another example of how the government wastes our money.
There are a number of points the authors (not 'the government') make that don't directly indicate any bias, but can lead to exclusions of some.
This quoted line sums the gist of the authors' premise pretty succinctly:
"Some of the potential constraints for obtaining an advanced reservation through Recreation.gov include: the ability to take a vacation to a national park, access to camping equipment, ability to plan up to six months in advance, internet access for obtaining a reservation, flexibility of work schedules to make reservations when they come available, the ability to pay for an external service for monitoring campsite availabilities (e.g., Campnab), and the institutional knowledge of when and how to obtain a reservation through Recreation.gov."

On a similar note: Private jet aircraft ownership is exclusionary.
 

tombiasi

Super Active Member
Sep 1, 2012
6,732
Northwestern New Jersey
There are a number of points the authors (not 'the government') make that don't directly indicate any bias, but can lead to exclusions of some.
This quoted line sums the gist of the authors' premise pretty succinctly:
"Some of the potential constraints for obtaining an advanced reservation through Recreation.gov include: the ability to take a vacation to a national park, access to camping equipment, ability to plan up to six months in advance, internet access for obtaining a reservation, flexibility of work schedules to make reservations when they come available, the ability to pay for an external service for monitoring campsite availabilities (e.g., Campnab), and the institutional knowledge of when and how to obtain a reservation through Recreation.gov."

On a similar note: Private jet aircraft ownership is exclusionary.
I wasn't referring to any content by the author, just the government study.
 

neighbormike

Super Active Member
Gold Supporting Member
Oct 6, 2012
3,827
WI
"Some of the potential constraints for obtaining an advanced reservation through Recreation.gov include: the ability to take a vacation to a national park, access to camping equipment, ability to plan up to six months in advance, internet access for obtaining a reservation, flexibility of work schedules to make reservations when they come available, the ability to pay for an external service for monitoring campsite availabilities (e.g., Campnab), and the institutional knowledge of when and how to obtain a reservation through Recreation.gov."
Wonder how much money and how many degrees it took for them to deduce the obvious! Maybe camping should be classified as a God given, inalienable right like cell phones and internet access…..
 

Brian Clancy

Member
Aug 23, 2021
27
I wasn't able to open it despite taking the space out of the end of the url and attempting to sign on as unsecure "http". You can get a full abstract of the report here.

You will note that even this site's link to that report is broken.

It concludes: "Principally, the latter group of implications includes the realization that online reservation systems present the unintended consequence of excluding low-income, and perhaps non-White, would-be campers—a conclusion drawn from the results of this exploratory study. This discussion includes an analysis of the distributive justice of online reservation systems."

Being a "low-income (retired!)" white guy of Irish descent, let me assure the unwashed masses that you really can find peace and joy looking for USDA National Forest campsites that say "no reservations." You get to pick out your own site; plan to come earlier in the week and enjoy the freedom and adventure of doing it on the fly. You really don't want to go near RESERVATIONS.GOV. Colorado forces you there for all State Parks. The weekends are all booked six months in advance. I simply signed up and as a special bonus they screwed up my Colorado Parks and Wildlife account and now I can't even buy a fishing license online.
 
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Lug_Nut

Active Member
May 29, 2016
243
Mt. Wachusett area, MA
I wasn't referring to any content by the author, just the government study.
It's NOT a "government study". It's from authors working at different departments at the University of Montana.

"Exclusionary effects of campsite allocation through reservations in U.S. national parks: Evidence from mobile device location data
William L. Rice1,2
Jaclyn R. Rushing2
Jennifer M. Thomsen1,2
Peter Whitney1,2
1University of Montana Parks, Tourism and Recreation Management
2University of Montana Department of Society and Conservation"
 

Ed Llorca

Member
Jul 16, 2018
42
Don't bother. Unless you need another example of how the government wastes our money.
Please stick to the topic at hand and keep camping free of political rhetoric... And if you must give us something fresher than that lame comment...
 

Ed Llorca

Member
Jul 16, 2018
42
Thank you to the OP for sharing. After skimming the report, what I saw is that camping facilities are in higher demand than existing supply forcing the use of a online reservation system and requiring 6 month planning/commitment capability. This is NOT EXCLUSIONARY in any way. I am not a minority and have a hard time getting campsites. Whereas camping is not an expensive activity it is certainly not free and has a buy in cost that many families cannot afford. That might be considered exclusionary by some but there is no equitable answer to the necessity of specialized equipment or the cost of goods is there? The camping reservation is not exclusionary, it CAN be a pain in the ass but there appears to be no better way to manage this resource so it is what it is until a better way is found.
 
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sseebart

Member
Mar 26, 2020
15
Northern California
Thank you to the OP for sharing. After skimming the report, what I saw is that camping facilities are in higher demand than existing supply forcing the use of a online reservation system and requiring 6 month planning/commitment capability. This is NOT EXCLUSIONARY in any way. I am not a minority and have a hard time getting campsites. Whereas camping is not an expensive activity it is certainly not free and has a buy in cost that many families cannot afford. That might be considered exclusionary by some but there is no equitable answer to the necessity of specialized equipment or the cost of goods is there? The camping reservation is not exclusionary, it CAN be a pain in the ass but there appears to be no better way to manage this resource so it is what it is until a better way is found.
I also skimmed the report and read it to say that class, not necessarily race, is the major factor here. That is, for the well-off, camping is more accessible, especially in popular national parks. As someone pointed out above, private jets are also exclusionary.

The thing is, should camping be an activity for the wealthy, like cruises and vacations abroad? We weren't rich when I was a kid, but we had a small Coleman pop-up and lived about an hour from Yosemite. On nice weekends, we could hook it up, drive to the park and camp--no entrance fee, no reservation needed. I'm not even sure there was a fee to use the campsite. (This was in the early 70's).

This is a supply and demand issue at heart. More campsites in national and state parks—a lot more—would be needed to satisfy the demand. I don't see how that's possible, unfortunately.
 

mtnbkr88

New Member
Jun 14, 2019
9
Big Bear City, CA
This is bull. Everybody has the same access to the online reservation system. It's not the fault of the reservation system if the person making the reservation doesn't have equipment or doesn't know if they will be available 6 months ahead of time. Make the reservation ahead of time and cancel later if you can't use it. Not everything in the world is designed to be biased based on class or race. Making a reservation ahead of time sure beats driving hundreds or thousands of miles to get to a campground to find no sites available. I guess the conclusion here is those that are fortunate in life should be punished to compensate for those that are less fortunate. Sheesh.
 

Boydster

Member
Jun 26, 2018
13
SW Montana
The report verifies some things that, in hindsight, could probably have been anticipated - If the campground supply is such that you can no longer arrive and expect to find an open site, then a reservation system favors those with the time flexibility and resources to book months in advance. As someone pointed out, this isn't so much a race thing as a socio-economic thing - if you have a job that grants you that kind of vacation flexibility, and you have the financial resources to tie up sums of money for 6 months or more (many folks do not), then the current system works just great for you. I'm retired, I can work around it, but I still can't just hook up the camper and go wherever I want to whenever I want to.
I'm among those who fondly recall being able to putter around the greater Yellowstone region and find a developed campsite, inside OR outside the park, with no concerns. Those days are pretty much gone during the camping season.

I think it is an honest question to ask if this is a fair system to ALL the people who love camping. In my mind and experience, it is not - I know I would have not had the time or financial flexibility back when I was camping on the cheap, and my camping experiences would have thus been quite limited. And for those who say just find a BLM or USFS site, that's great for some, but aside from the fact that these are often farther out of the way on crappy roads, many folks, especially young families, fare much better with even basic services.

While I have your attention, one other unanticipated result of the reservation system is the negative impact of people who overbook camping reservations and then don't cancel and don't show up, leaving empty sites in many locations. They just throw the reservation money away - sorry folks but if you do it that is total BS abuse of the system. Speaking to campground hosts and rangers, this is a far more prevalent and insidious problem than many of us may realize.

I'm not saying that, given exploding demand, these are easy problems to fix, but the system is certainly broken right now. Looking at some of the comments, I'd recommend we all try walking in someone else's shoes before jumping to conclusions.
 

David Blackwell

Active Member
Platinum Supporting Member
May 10, 2017
144
San Diego, CA
Boydster - I particularly agree with your point about the cancellation problem. Personally, I'd love to see some sort of social media camping scoring system. (I realize that would probably add even more work for campground hosts and rangers to identify "no show" reservations.). That said, some sort of increasing penalty for repeat no-show offenders or incentives to cancel early i.e. return booking fees if cancelled more than 5 days in advance.
 

tombiasi

Super Active Member
Sep 1, 2012
6,732
Northwestern New Jersey
Please stick to the topic at hand and keep camping free of political rhetoric... And if you must give us something fresher than that lame comment...
Where do you think the funds come from for these studies. Just for the record I’ll say what I damn well please. If you don’t like it don’t read it.
 

SHFL

Active Member
Jan 6, 2015
538
Florida
This is bull. Everybody has the same access to the online reservation system. It's not the fault of the reservation system if the person making the reservation doesn't have equipment or doesn't know if they will be available 6 months ahead of time. Make the reservation ahead of time and cancel later if you can't use it. Not everything in the world is designed to be biased based on class or race. Making a reservation ahead of time sure beats driving hundreds or thousands of miles to get to a campground to find no sites available. I guess the conclusion here is those that are fortunate in life should be punished to compensate for those that are less fortunate. Sheesh.
For some parks I had to make my reservation at exactly 8:00am when the 11-month reservation window opened. Not everyone is able to do that; some people HAVE to work at that time (no breaks, no exceptions).

I KNOW that I will not be working weekends, and I KNOW exactly which days I will be off — but not everyone has that luxury.

Sometimes we just have to think about what life is like for other people…
 

Mark60

Active Member
Aug 23, 2020
131
TN
The state park I go to will give your spot away if you don’t show up the first day unless you call the camp host and tell them you are arriving later
 




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