Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I am so mad I could spit. My husband said I should write to you and vent. I think I should write to you so that I can warn other campers of this possible circumstance. We were visiting Patagonia Lake State Park in Arizona. Like many State Parks around the country, Patagonia has a gate that closes at night. When you register, most parks give you a gate code for entering after hours. At Patagonia Lake the gate was a long way back from the entrance station and the campground loops. It was a sliding gate and very inconspicuous. We never gave it much thought. We had been to other Arizona State Parks with no gates. We met friends from home for dinner in town one night. When we returned to the campground at 11 pm the gate was closed. There was no one around to let us in. We were never told about a curfew. It was in the information we received when we entered the park, but we never read it. I just think it is important enough that park employees should give people a verbal warning that the park gate closes at 10 pm and there is no way in after that time, except to park your vehicle outside the gate and walk all the way into the camping area in the dark. When we finally made it home I needed a stiff drink just to get to sleep. A gate code would be a much better idea, in my opinion. When I made the suggestion in the morning, I was told the park brochure explained all the park rules.
--Locked and Loaded in Lodi
The majority of gated parks do have a code, which makes perfect sense. I have no idea why this park would have a gate without a code. It is close to the border of Mexico and maybe there is a reason I am not aware of. No matter the case, I agree a verbal warning of awareness to every campground guest only makes sense. Some people for various health reasons would not be able to walk that distance. One thing you might try in the future would be several code combinations if there is a key pad. I have done this a couple times in Florida State Parks when I have left my code information back at the motorhome. Not wanting to walk a mile in the dark I tried 911, 411 etc... Most gates have an easy access code for local emergency personnel to access the park. Often they end in 11. Sometimes people do slide in behind paying guests when a gate opens. If the park has had problems in the past it may be the reason for the aggressive gate policy they have set. Because it is so unusual, I would think a verbal explanation to each and every camper should be mandatory. I know you’ll drink to that.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink