Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We just stayed for one night at a Louisiana State Park. We went in without a reservation. Dry camping was $14 per night. When I looked at my credit card receipt I noticed I was charge $20. My receipt said the $6 was a reservation fee. When I questioned it I was told everyone is charged $6 the first night to pay for the Reserve America system they use for keeping track of their state campgrounds. I have never heard of this before. There is nothing on their park websites that explains this in advance. The park attendant never explained it when I paid, and she was even a bit huffy when I questioned it.
Have you ever heard of this before? Am I the only one that thinks this is a bit strange? My wife says, “Get over it!” Should I?
--Nailed in New Orleans
Your wife is right, get over it. Does it make sense? Not really. I questioned it as much as you did the first time I experienced it. To be honest I took it a few steps further. I was so curious I called the Louisiana State Park office and asked for more of an explanation. I was told they have tried running their own software and found it much more expensive than paying Reserve America six bucks for every paid camper night in their parks annually.
What they couldn’t tell me is what that number is. They have 22 State Parks and everyone pays, reservation or not.
What I found most unusual was that they had no reference to this charge on their website or their Fees and Facilities Guide. When I questioned this, I was told I just missed it. I asked to be directed to where it is on their site. What I found was a reservation fee for six bucks. It states nowhere that everyone is charged this fee. Strange but true.
That said, Louisiana is priced fairly and competitively when compared to other states. Every state seems to have a different management vision. Texas, for example, charges 7 bucks per person per night for an entrance fee on top of camping. If you do not have an annual pass, you pay this fee every night. A couple would have to stay in Texas State Parks at least five times a year to break even on the annual pass. If you are just passing through it is often not the most economical camping.
Other states tax campground fees, which add up quickly.
Louisiana does recognize seniors with half-priced camping. This is good for not only Louisiana residents, but any state that honors the senior passport the same as Louisiana. Unfortunately, that is only Arkansas, Delaware and Maryland.
It takes some time to become familiar with all the various state and federal campground fees, rules and regulations. To the mix you can now add concessioners. They seem to be taking control of public lands.
I still have a hard time grasping the voodoo economics of public tax dollars subsidizing corporate managed state, federal and national park campgrounds, run by volunteers. In Louisiana it seems state government can’t manage a website and the Federal Government is finding it harder all the time to manage a simple campground.
A government bean counter recently figured out that the legacy costs of Smokey the Bear could be enormous, because bears are now living much longer. If Smokey retires and refuses to take a buyout his pension costs could become a fiscal anchor on the Forest Service. Smokey the Bear could soon be put on the endangered species list, replaced by a volunteer in a Yogi suit.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink