Dear RV Shrink:
We just stopped for the night in Red Bluff, CA, at a campground run by the National Forest Service. We drove around, found a site with a tag that said, “Open.” Once we were all set up, the host showed up and told us the site was already reserved and that we would have to move to a different site. I pointed out to him the “Open” tag and he said he forgot to change it. Then he went on to say we had to make a reservation and pay online; they don’t take money at an iron ranger anymore.
It’s the newest twist to rip campers off. Our half-price senior discount was still accepted, making our fee $8.00, but the reservation fee was $9.00. Even if you come in for a first-come, first-served site, you have to pay a reservation fee. We booked another site and moved.
A bit later the host showed up and said, “You need to put your tag on your post.” So not only is the government annoying me with their new voodoo economics, they expect me to haul a printer along to produce a post tag for them.
I want to start a “resistance” movement, but my wife just tells me to put up and shut up. Am I being unreasonable? —Cranky in California
I’m with you, buddy. We had a similar situation. I told the host I would come over to his place and print it off on his computer printer. He had no printer, no power, and no answers.
If you read the propaganda the government puts out, about making camping easier by using reservation companies, it doesn’t mention all the inconveniences, continual cost escalation, and lack of travel spontaneity. It is only going to get worse.
This was the first paragraph in a recent news article about changes proposed for NPS campgrounds, and you can just assume it will be the same for National Forest campgrounds:
“A committee that reports to the National Park Service (NPS) is recommending privatizing campgrounds within national parks, limiting benefits for senior visitors and allowing food trucks as a way to bring more money into the system.”
To add insult to injury, the Park Service only retains about 80% of fees it collects and is continually underfunded from tax dollars and natural resource extraction royalties, thus leaving them with a backlog of approximately $12 billion in maintenance projects.
Collected fees do not always end up benefiting those that pay. A recent example I have experienced was in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail, the park service established a $20 fee to thru-hikers, by way of an online permit. They also expect a backpacker to carry a printer as they demand a printed copy be in the hiker’s possession.
Doing a little math, I estimated the park service takes in about $60,000 per year from AT hikers. I would think that would translate into trail amenities. My first stop in the park was a shelter on a ridge. A sign pointed off one side of the ridge to “Water,” and the other side “Toilet.” Anticipating a pit toilet, I was shocked to find about two acres of dysentery landfill. The park service couldn’t even provide a two-holer and hikers didn’t bother to bury their deposits.
Add to this scenario the fact that the RV lifestyle is growing exponentially, as is the world population. So fasten your seat belt – there will be an assortment of change coming on a regular basis that will expect you to hone your high-tech skills and assemble an arsenal of new gadgets to “get away from it all.” —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink
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