I can readily see both sides of the equation presented by westernrvparkowner and monkey44. Both are valid points. Yet, from the perspective of a self employed, cell phone & MiFi packin' full timer with a preference for the ambiance of government parks, I have to agree with monkey44. His observation of problems in concessionaire run parks is spot-on.
From a cost standpoint, excluding the Federal "geezer pass" which I use, the daily campground rate at a government park is generally higher than the monthly rate at a nearby private park. Subsequently, I'm paying a higher price for that ambiance while losing the amenity of at least a sewer connection at the site... plus, I have to move in 14 days. The government calls that "leisure camping".
Adding concessionaires to the mix is simply going to raise the price of leisure camping. Reserve America is an example. Be a walk-up in a S.C. State Park for a week and note the additional charge. Oh... you want to extend your stay for a few more days? What a racket! You haven't even picked up a phone and there are reservation dollars flowing from your wallet to RA. Concessionaires?... There will simply be one more entity that you have to pay before the experience... regardless of the service.
I have always enjoyed the ability to stay up to 14 days and use my geezer pass to make the price realistic . If prices are increased or services diluted due to concessionaire contracts , I will make other plans . I do not go to the small out of the way parks expecting or needing resort style amenities .
I worry a campground maybe completely "modernized" and the campsites with "basics" may be swallowed up in that "modernization." I really like Twin Knobs campground in the Daniel Boone NF. Ten loops with electric-only hookups at 101 campsites, 25 with full hookups, and the remaining just good old fire-rings and tables. Gives us options and I like that. If it were to be modernized, would there be any non-hookup sites left?
FYI: Don't worry about the 14 day stay limit. They are pushing to extend that but you can bet your geezer discount won't apply (just my assumption but this push to "modernization" is from the same folks that wanted to reduce our discount from 50% to 10%).
Be a walk-up in a S.C. State Park for a week and note the additional charge.
What's this all about? Are you saying camping sites cost more on a first-come-first-served basis than they do if you make reservations?
For what it's worth, on some RV trips we've had good luck with county parks and fair grounds. I wish we could find a Garmin POI database of every RV-friendly county park and fairground in the U.S..
Phil... I'm a working full timer with a fluid schedule that is not conducive to making reservations. S.C. SP's have charged a reservation fee on each site I've taken as a walk-up. I've also had to extend my stay a few extra days, only to discover... another reservation fee charged for those extra days. When I raised a question, the Park office advised the extra fee is remitted to Reserve America as per their contract.
In other words, if I want the ambiance of S.C. SP's, I'm going to have to pay a fee to RA. Whether I personally use them or not, doesn't matter. And if I need to extend my stay a few days beyond what I had originally anticipated, the extension is handled as a new transaction with another RA fee. And I'm not even going to delve into the time consuming computer problems the park employees have with RA, which makes Walk-Ups thoroughly disgusted with the check-in process.
I will note that I have camped at several C.O.E. parks in S.C. and used the "geezer pass" for 1/2 price camping. In those cases, as a Walk-Up, no additional fee out of MY went to Recreation.gov, alias... Reserve America.
This "movement" has been extant for years. Currently, more than half of the campgrounds – and 80 percent of all campsites in our national forests are managed by private concessionaires. We have worked for several of them and are currently doing so.
The RA reserve fee policy is the worst and most disgusting rip-off in the camping system.
We've camped a lot over the years, often months at a time, even may have for some periods been classified as a "full-timer", now probably more like half-timer or three/quarter. But we camp pretty casually, no reservations and fairly short stays, mostly NP and SP, COE, etc.
IF I'm standing at the counter, and some one says, "You have a reservation fee" to RA just because we want more than two days, it simply ain't gonna happen. We'd change sites every two days before paying a reservation fee to RA for doing nothing.
That's one of the benefits of a truck camper -- HA -- we can move in ten minutes - is it a hassle? Not much of one, and the principal of that RA fee system refusal is more important to this camper.
The fact that it's in the contract for ALL sites even if RA does NOTHING, is the p..s off more than the fee itself. And more important, if a camper wants a campsite reserved, fine, pay the fee. But if I don't, then you have NO fee coming and it bothers me to no end that we'd be required to pay for a service of that nature we don't use. The reservation part has nothing to do with the camping part.
The Government is really innefficient at running things. The Government typically spends two dollars to make a dollar. The advantage of a concessionaire being in charge is that we ultimatley pay a lower price from a macro economic standpoint.
People, here, on the RV.net tend to look at NF campgrounds and surmise that they cost nothing to operate and should be "free". The fact is, just hauling out the garbage can cost far more on an annual basis than what the campground brings in on user fees. The Government can't do it all even when they are in charge. They contract out garbage hauling and stuff like that and usually end up paying throught the proverbial nose for it. With a concessionaire, there is much more focus on costs (even if that means higher users fees). But no one would use the campground if it didn't offer some level of appeal so the concessionaire has to balance costs, user benefits, and user fees.
On the other hand, having a concessionaire in charge has its downside. It has resulted in alcohol being served in National Park restaurants and tent trailers being banished from managed campgrounds. And, not because the bears are anymore dangerous than the unmanaged campground down the road but because the concessionaire is trying to make room for and attract a "Class A" RV owner that is willing to pay for a premium experience. But the concessionaire is not above hiding their class discrimination behind prosaic arguments.
Testudo & Princesse Caribou
2012 FORD F-250 6.2L 4x4 EC SB SRW
2006 FORD F-250 5.4L manual trans (Sniff! Gone but not forgotten!)
2006 OUTFITTER SUPER-Caribou 6.5
Westernrvparkowner are you bidding on the new five year contract on a bunch of now concessionaired cgs operated by Charles Jantzen in Western Montana? Anytime a middle man is brought in prices must go up. Also the Forest Service gives a lot of leeway to grumbling concessionaires. I know of one that is starting to look like a KOA!. And I really don't know what sort of operation you have, but I really don't see Forest Service campers affecting the bottom line of your operation. Most I know rarely use a private RV park over FS CGs, including us.