R.I. Reservation Service Starts Nov. 14
As New Englanders busily plan ski trips for the winter, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is already focusing on next spring, calling on outdoors types to begin claiming their favorite campsites.
The state’s first-ever campground reservation system is being launched Wednesday (Nov. 14), allowing campers to reserve sites up to a year in advance, according to The Providence Journal.
“We are excited around here,” said Steven T. Wright, acting chief of the DEM’s Division of Parks and Recreation. “We’re a little bit anxious because it’s new. But we’re ready to go.”
In the past, campsites have been distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, leading to huge lines. On holiday weekends, park managers have had to turn away crowds of vacationers, including visitors to the state who may have traveled hours in cramped vehicles.
For the most popular spots – Fishermen’s Campground in Narragansett and the cabins at Burlingame State Campground in Charlestown – the state has accepted reservations by mail, prompting diehard campers to race to the post office at 12:01 a.m. every Jan. 14, hoping their letters will earn an early time-stamp when they arrive at the campground.
The new system will be far more orderly and far less dramatic.
Beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday, campers can telephone a Rhode Island call center (877-742-2675) to make a reservation or pick a spot using a state website, www.riparks.com
In all, the reservation system will feature an inventory of more than 1,000 campsites in five parks: Burlingame, Fishermen’s, East Beach and Charlestown Breachway in Charlestown and the George Washington Campground in Glocester. Nearly 70,000 groups of campers rent state sites annually.
“In this day and age, things have to be planned,” Larry Mouradjian, associate director for natural resources management at the DEM, said in June, when The Providence Journal first reported the policy change. “We’ve received a lot of pleas to accept reservations.”
That convenience comes with a cost. Reservations by phone carry a $10 fee; online, campers will pay an additional $9 for a reservation. (The base price for renting a campground is unchanged: $14 a night for state residents and $20 for non-residents.)
Last-minute planners may still arrive at a campground without a reservation. But on popular days, even a predawn arrival might not guarantee a space, as the sites will likely have been scooped up months before.
The call center – to be operated by ReserveAmerica Holdings Inc., a New York-based subsidiary of Ticketmaster that was hired to run the reservation program – will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends, from April 15 to Labor Day.
During the rest of the year, ReserveAmerica staff will only be available by phone on weekdays, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.