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Friday, July 11, 2014

Online reservation system bringing money to Kansas state parks

By Michael Pearce
The Wichita Eagle

So far, so good for the new online reservation system for Kansas state park camping sites, which went online in mid-April.

“To date it’s brought in over $600,000, so I have to consider that pretty successful,” said Linda Lanterman, state park acting director. “That’s about 10,000 reservations and about 39,500 nights. That’s a lot of nights.”

The online program at ksoutdoors.com – click on “reservations” – is part of the Reserve America system, which is used by about 20 states and 30 private groups to help customers reserve camping spots. Reservations for Kansas parks also can be made by calling 620-672-5911.

The new system gets money into state park coffers quicker, and also saves time that the state park staff would have spent handling the money. Those are huge benefits for the department, which is constantly battling budget and staffing issues.

Lanterman said it also allows the department to better study the demographics of its users. Adjustments can then be made to make sure the public is best served.

Wilson State Park is getting the most online reservations; Cheney and El Dorado State Parks are about tied for second place.

Lanterman said usually no more than about half of the camping spots can be reserved online. The rest are first-come, first-served, as they have been for years.

She said a few campers have been frustrated to arrive at a park and see their favorite site empty but reserved by another camper. Park managers, though, say support for the reservation system is strong and growing.

“People like that they can go online, reserve the site they want, and when they show up it’s ready,” said Ryan Stucky, Cheney State Park manager. “Most are figuring out the system and that it’s more convenient for them.”

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