A new state bill, AB 618, introduced by Democratic Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, aims to make it easier to secure campsite reservations in California state parks. The proposed amendments include incentives for early cancellations and penalties for no-shows, as well as the implementation of a lottery system for popular campsites. Additionally, the bill proposes providing a discount to low-income visitors with a Golden Bear pass. The changes are aimed at addressing the high demand for campsites and improving the reservation process for frequent campers.
California state parks, with 15,000 sites across 279 parks, attract more than 6.5 million visitors annually, according to Bauer-Kahan’s office. However, frustrations around securing a campsite reservation, including having to book months in advance or wake up early for the 8 a.m. reservation window, have become increasingly common.
A recent survey conducted by camping website The Dyrt found that nearly 59% of campers faced challenges in booking campsites due to a lack of reservation availability. Current regulations, as highlighted by Bauer-Kahan’s office, contribute to this issue by not imposing penalties for unused spots, whether due to last-minute cancellations or no-shows.
Changes to California State Park campground cancellation policy
AB 618 suggests amendments to campsite reservation policies in California state parks. Under the proposed changes, cancellations made at least seven days before a reservation would result in a credit for future use within five years. However, those who do not show up after the first day of a reservation would forfeit the remainder of the booking without receiving credit.
Additionally, the bill proposes capping the maximum number of days allowed at the same campsite per year at 30, and limiting reservations during peak season to a maximum of seven consecutive nights.
The proposed changes under AB 618 would apply to all state parks, including the approximately 150 parks that do not currently use the Reserve California booking system. However, the new lottery system, which is part of the bill, would only be implemented in up to five of the most popular campsites. The specific campsites to be included in the lottery system would be determined by the State Parks Department based on booking interest six months ahead of the reservation date. It remains unclear whether all popular campsites would be included or if only a select number of spots would be affected by the lottery system. Implementation of the lottery system is scheduled to start in 2025.
Discounts for low-income users
In addition to the reservation policy changes, AB 618 includes a provision for a 25% discount on campsite bookings for low-income individuals who hold the annual “Golden Bear pass” for California state parks. This pass, which is free for CalWORKs and supplemental security income recipients, as well as households with income below a certain threshold, aims to make camping more accessible for those with financial constraints.
The bill is currently before the Appropriations Committee, moving one step closer to potential implementation.
It is good to see that at least some powerful people/politicians understand that various aspects of the current reservation/penalty system are causing considerable problems.
I don’t get the way that parks allow a no-show for the first night. If they’re not on site by, say 8pm, open up the site to the next in line. Or the person who booked the site must call the park and let them know they’ll be arriving after 8pm or they void their booking.
No matter what reservation system Campgrounds come up with. People will still complain. I have no issue with homeless crowds and shabby campers reserving campsites. as long as they and everyone else don’t get preference. Which also includes they and everyone else acting respectable and behaving.
Hope Arizona State parks can come up with something similar.
As a California resident I see a lot of these state park complaints created by local folks who typically only book weekends. If ever trying to make a state park reservation, even at 8 AM, most folks will find all weekends booked solid for six-months. There needs to be a system to let campers who would book a full 6 or 7 nights, some added priority. Truth be known, cancellations have often been the only way I have got a reservation. Just check back on the reservation system frequently and usually a booking can be made later that could not be obtained at 8 am on the opening day. Although you might have to pull up stakes and move from site to site. Six or Seven-day bookings should perhaps receive a 20 or 25 percent park priority in each park before folks booking for fewer than six or seven-nights open. Vacant sites in the middle of the week are not generating revenue or being enjoyed.
I like the idea of a lottery system for reservations. Try getting a site at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Florida. Each day reservations for 3-5 sites that might become available open at 7 ET. Gone within a second or so. Pure luck to get one out of possibly thousands of people trying. A lottery would solve the problem of having to be at your computer every morning hoping against hope that you hit the enter button at the right instant. Computer draw the number of sites available for a given day from the applicants for them. The winners would have so many days to complete the reservation. I’ve suggested it to the Florida parks department with no response.
Most of this is good news!. The part they are missing is from out of state visitors hoarding these parks and not charging an up-fee for those. Additionally, looks like some of these low income visitors MAY (in my opinion) draw some of the homeless crowds and shabby campers! All to be seen.
Americans have to get used to rubbing shoulders with people who aren’t as fortunate as themselves. Maybe the empathy gene will take hold. This kind of comment reflects more on the shabbiness of the sayer than on the quality of the person(s) being shunned.
Each to their own opinion. Let’s agree to disagree. I have been around many years to see the reality. And I for one, live in Ca. for 72 years and see the disorder and imperfections to the system. Maybe we should be like Oregon, charge 25% for out of state visitors! I pay taxes here, most don’t……………..
Just one more reason to avoid California. An upsell for out of state visitors? That should boost tourism. @@
Huh? I’m not sure Americans that have worked all their lives to acheive some form of security, both financial and physical, are going to just let a group of homeless methheads move in next door without a little pushback.
The system your referring to that forces less fortunate onto others has a name. It’s called ‘Socialism’, and is done in the name of EQUITY. It makes us all equally unhappy. Equally unsafe. Equally immobile. Equally poor. Equally educated. Equally hungry. Equally unequal.
America is not founded on Equity. We are not a country based on equal outcomes but is in Fact a country founded on the principle of equal opportunities. Equity is only for the losers. Equity is founded in
pro-participation trophy idealism.
Equality is for everyone. It is uniquely American constitutionally.
I wonder how long the lottery takes. I can see people going into the lottery but also booking another “just in case” site. That part seems to just complicate things.
Yes, it’s daunting to think about. I guess it’s a way to shake some sites loose from the folks who use the parks as their private cottage–locking in the same choice sites year after year or week after week. I’d rather see people knocked down a priority list if they’ve already stayed in a park many times, but that’s even more complicated.
always great to read about sensible bills moving through government (rare)