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2015-2019 Annual Map Producer: Jeannine Patané/RV Compass

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The New Confusion Over Government Agency Campground Bookings

By Jeannine Patané
November 11, 2018

So you want to rally in a government-run campground? Good luck with making reservations. 2018 has bounced government Website contractors and we are begrudgingly paying for it.

We were used to booking through reserveamerica.com, but it was apparently time to reward contracts to other companies. Not only do we have to contend with a monopolizing reserveamerica.com, but the frustrating addition of recreation.gov.

More importantly, which site do we go to now for which agency campground?

Many sweet-sounding article titles from renowned recreation publications sprouted in August 2018, stressing the transition should be more optimized with the baton passing, but it seems the new runner, Booz Allen Hamilton, is off to a clumsy and slow start. Change often isn’t easy or quick. We end-users pay for it while they figure it out.

Under their contract, Booz Allen Hamilton must adhere to two important requirements. The first requirement directly affects our booking experience with agencies. They have to provide real-time updates on campsite availability through an application programming interface, or API. Like booking through Hotels.com, or Kayak, it should make booking delightfully easy to do everything—from planning your commute to making a restaurant reservation.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Too bad recreation.gov falls short. In fact, red flags have been thrown on the course. Booz Allen Hamilton derives nearly all of its revenue from government agency contracts. They disclosed in June that they are under both criminal and civil investigation by the DOJ for how it calculated costs billed to the U.S. government.

This is not good optics for our camping reservations.

When attempting to book a campsite on recreation.gov, the visual map option is elusive. Two out of three of our office Web browsers display in a box, “WebGL support is required to display maps on Recreation.gov. Please enable WebGL or use a browser that supports it to view the maps.”

When Googling WebGL, Chrome comes up. Here’s the deal; RV Compass is sticking to an older version of OSX10 for Mac. Like most Internet users, we're not on the latest and greatest operating system or newest browser version of the month. We also tested the map interface with the browser, Vivaldi. The only browser that worked on our devices with the map feature on recreation.gov is the latest version of Firefox. No other browsers we have installed will display a map on recreation.gov.

Two out of three browsers can’t fully operate with a government-contracted Website. Not off to a good start, are they?

It’s frustrating, and the more a public voice pipes up, the more likely we can hope for a more user-friendly change. For now, we have to think of reserveamerica.com as a state park reservation system for only some states. Recreation.gov is the Website attempting to harness the federal parks.

Here’s a few links you need to express your thoughts to for a more user-friendly all-in-one reservation system of data sharing:

As Marc Peruzzi states in the end of his article with Outside Magazine: “Start by visiting AccessLand.org, which lists the phone numbers of state-park officials. Then call one near you and let them know that campsite data doesn’t belong to any one company. Just like our public rivers, beaches, deserts, and mountains, that data is ours—and we insist that it be made available to any party that wants to help us find a place to pitch our tents.”

To let the company, Booz Allen Hamilton, know how you feel about the usability of recreation.gov, write them at: https://www.boozallen.com/tools/footer-navigation/contact-us.html

Sweet-sounding articles for more information:

Outside Magazine - August 6, 2018 article by Marc Peruzzi:
Reserving Campsites Is About to Get So Much Easier
Thanks to a grassroots movement, it's soon going to get a lot simpler to book campsites on federal lands. But with more than two-thirds of public campgrounds controlled by the states, the work has just begun.

RV Travel - August 8, 2018 article by Bob Difley:
ReserveAmerica out. New efficient campsite booking system coming
Have you tried to go on a spontaneous weekend camping trip lately? So you went online to reserve a campsite only to find that all “reservable” sites have been taken…

RV Life - August 2018 article by Nikki Cleveland:
It’s About To Get Easier To Find & Reserve Campsites
A quick Google search will tell you about current traffic delays or hotel vacancies. So why can’t we just as easily find real-time information on campsite availability?

RV Network -September 21, 2018 by edatlanta:
Change To Federal Reservation System
An informative forum thread in General RV Information about the transition of the reservation system.

Currently 32 states partner with Aspira, the company operating reserveamerica.com. 18 states have contracts with other vendors. Below is a state park listing with reserveamerica.com. For a full list of agencies under Aspira, go to: https://www.reserveamerica.com/campgroundDirectory.do

Alaska State Parks
Arkansas State Parks
Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection
Delaware State Parks
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites
Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Iowa State Parks
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism
Kentucky Department of Parks
Louisiana Office of State Parks
Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation
Mississippi Wildlife Fisheries & Parks
Montana State Parks
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation
New Mexico State Parks
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation & Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation
North Carolina State Parks
Ohio State Parks Oregon Parks and Recreation Department
Pennsylvania State Parks
Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management
Utah State Parks and Recreation
Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Wyoming State Parks