By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming implemented a reservation system for campsites at its state parks as a way to get state residents back out into the parks more quickly, a state official said Friday.
Dave Glenn, with State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails, said the reservation system put in place in anticipation of state park campgrounds opening on May 15 was seen as a way to speed up the process of getting residents out to the parks.
“Our biggest goal was to get people from Wyoming out camping sooner,” he said. “Going to the reservation system allows us to do that.”
Gov. Mark Gordon announced last week that campgrounds at state parks would be open for use by Wyoming residents only.
The reservation system was seen as a way to prevent out-of-state visitors from camping at state parks and as a way to make sure campers observed social distancing guidelines.
The system has been met with opposition from some and a petition drive has been launched to urge Gordon to halt its use.
The petition said the state’s campsites should continue to be claimed on a “first-come, first-served” basis and also criticized the reservation fee of $7.75 charged by the company running the reservation system.
The petition on change.org had been signed by more than 27,000 people as of Friday afternoon.
But Glenn, deputy director of State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails, said the system will help keep out-of-state visitors from claiming state park campsites, will keep park staff from having to handle cash from people paying for campsites and will make it easier for park officials to follow social distancing guidelines.
He said park officials determined it would be wise to keep campsites 25 feet apart while social distancing is being observed, so the reservation system allows park managers to close certain campsites to preserve that distance.
“There are some campsites that are really close and we said ‘OK, we need to close about every other one of those,’” he said.
People will be able to reserve campsites while driving to state parks, Glenn said, by accessing the reservation site from their smart phones or other portable devices.
“They will still be able to do first-come, first-served,” he said. “Hop online, see what’s available and reserve it on the drive. Click the button and you’re camping.”
Glenn said he understood why some people are upset over the reservation fee charged on top of the nightly camping fee of $6 to $9.
However, he added that the state is trying to negotiate a better deal with the reservation company, which pockets the reservation fee, and noted that when non-residents are allowed to camp at the parks, they will have to pay a higher reservation fee than residents.
In addition, Wyoming residents will be able to reserve spots before non-residents, he said.
“We want to make sure that residents who want to get out on the Fourth of July at Glendo are able to do that,” he said.
The reservation system will also reduce conflicts over campsites and generally make it easier for people to spend time in state parks, Glenn said.
Glenn said the state will reassess the situation at the end of the summer to determine if the reservation system will remain in place.