NC State Parks has quietly and confusingly raised rates and at the same time, cut senior citizen discounts by 50%. This happened this week to Kerr Lake Park Watch’s Lead of Public Affairs, Frank Timberlake, who regularly books working trips to campgrounds around Kerr Lake, “The people at Reserve America said that they did not yet have new rates for North Carolina State Parks, which includes the seven state recreation areas at Kerr, but that they (Reserve America) were advised to begin new charges around the first of May. I asked for a rate schedule and was refused several times. They referred me to another person and eventually to a supervisor who could not explain very much.”
“The first thing I noticed is that they cut the senior citizen discount in half and that they upped my regular rate” continued Timberlake. “They couldn’t produce anything but they said I still had to pay a $3 per night fee for them booking the site, online or on the phone so Reserve America is still taking in the big bucks. I had to sit on hold for 14 minutes for them to look up an old transaction and the new one I made today because Reserve America’s computers are slow according to two CSR’s and a supervisor. NC State Parks just operates in this vacuum and asks for zero input. Hell, the parks belong to us not them but one wouldn’t know it by their actions! And why should they go picking on older folks for more money?”
Conducting further research, Kerr Lake Park Watch found a short obscure notice on the NC State Park website that says the state is phasing in dynamic pricing which means a new supply and demand rate non-structure and that took effect on May 6th. The last time state parks raised rates was at the bottom of the recession in 2010, another very popular move with the public.
North Carolina State Parks users which includes those who visit the seven State Recreation Areas at Kerr Lake pay some of the highest reservation fees in America. Those fees, the $3 per night, means that if a camper stays at an NC State Park for two nights Reserve America charges that camper $6, but if the same camper reserves the same site for 14 nights, Reserve America charges and keeps $42, for the exact same transaction work. It’s a one time transaction so why is it based on the number of nights?
Against the advice of other states like Virginia, NC State Parks began with the $3 charge because Reserve America supplied all the reservation software and systems. Kerr Lake Park Watch wants to know why people have to hold long periods to make reservations and why such a steep transaction fee continues on.
Reaction to the rate hikes and senior citizen discount cut from Kerr Lake Park Watch members and campers has been direct. KLPW Steering Committee Chair Larry Matthews said, “When our well managed park system pays $700,000 for a new bath house (Hibernia), they have to come up wih the bucks somewhere. And while we’re at it, how long does it take to hire “highly skilled and educated” park rangers. To my knowledge, we still don’t have a ranger at Hibernia. Last, check some of the RV forums. Other states use Reserve America and are no where near as pricey as our $3/night fee. Come on Raleigh!”
A camper who has grown up camping for years at Kerr Lake, Brook Cannady said, “It seems like what has been a good avenue for good family fun with reasonable rates is coming to an end . What was an economical family avenue seems to be changing but without more amenities to support the rate increases. Campers have many family camping options not priced much higher than these state campground with amenities such as pools , wifi, planned kid activities , horse shoe pits, entertainment, and with much cleaner shower facilities with actual ways to keep clothes dry in between changing area and showering space and the list can continue. Maybe this increase will result in a decrease in park camping.”
“This is not the transparency and good state government customer service that Governor McCrory promised us. State Parks just goes and makes changes without asking anyone anything. It makes us think the only way to change this is at the polls,” said Timberlake. “We will continue to raise questions and if necessary throw darts! This is just wrong.”