Officials at one state park campground in Colorado are getting serious about dealing with campers who reserve a site and never show up.
Steamboat Lake State Park in Colorado just instituted a new policy aimed at curtailing the number of nightly “no shows” at its campground.
“The park will be implementing the NO SHOW POLICY for camping this coming season,” said a notice on the park’s website. “If you do not show up within 24 hours of your scheduled check-in time, and you do not notify the park that you will be arriving late, your site may be resold and may not be available when you arrive. Any nights passed are non-refundable.”
The move – driven by camper complaints – came after park officials tired of seeing empty sites many nights despite a fully booked campground.
Mark Koep of Campground Views said he isn’t surprised that it was a state park that made the “get tough” announcement regarding no shows.
“Many public parks are still so inexpensive (often $15 to $20 a night) that we’ve seen a lot of campers booking sites and then not even bothering to cancel,” Koep said. “The result is that these public parks often show online as being sold out, and yet there are sites that go unused.”
Koep said he suspects “no shows” have always been a problem at inexpensive public parks that historically had few penalties. “I think it came to a head these past few years as parks filled up and you had to book far in advance to secure a site. People have been booking campsites that they really have had little interest in, just to be safe. Then, they don’t even bother to cancel because it’s only $15 a night lost.”
A new trend?
It’s likely too early to tell if the Colorado park’s move will be duplicated by other state and federal parks. Some parks managers – like those at Steamboat Lake State Park – are given the autonomy to make no-show decisions themselves. Others are governed by policies set at the state or regional level, which involves a lot more bureaucracy in decision making.
Camper response so far is mixed. Koep posted a short video on YouTube about the issue that included two camper comments.
“Hopefully, this will be implemented everywhere,” said one camper. “Something must be done about campsite hogs. Over and over again my husband and I have had to book less-desirable campsites in state or federal parks only to see that the site we wanted goes completely unused for days or even our whole stay.”
But another camper shared a different view.
“I feel that if I pay for a spot – showing up on time or not – it is mine,” the camper said. “I know it is frustrating for others, but I shouldn’t have to worry about telling them I am late. What if the weather has held me back then come in? I think it is just the way it is.”
“Musical chairs” campsites
RVtravel.com reader Susan R. said she’s seen many campers play “musical chairs” at fully reserved but sparsely occupied campgrounds in Utah.
“We just spent five nights at a state park in Utah,” Susan said. “When I booked in January there was only one site left and it was the worst site in the campground but I booked it. During our stay, at least 4-5 of the 10 prime partial hookup sites and another 4-5 of the dry sites were empty every night. There are only 24 sites, so at least a third of the campground was empty each day. However, online the place was 100% booked.”
She said when the campground’s gate officially closed at 10 p.m., tent and van campers in no-hookup sites frantically broke camp and moved to hookup sites to take advantage of electricity. They then moved again back to their original sites in the morning.
“It was like musical chairs and kind of comical,” Susan said. “That was just too much more for us, so we stayed put. “I asked the ranger every morning if I could move sites, but she told me they were all booked. She told more even though no one showed up, the sites were paid for, and they had to hold them.”
Will the policy adopted at Steamboat Lake State Park be just the beginning of similar policies at parks across the country? What do you think?