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Oregon State Parks tests same-day reservations at all coast campgrounds

Looking from the dune, a shot down a beach, rocks and driftwood are in the foreground, then sand, then ocean waves. Two people are walking on the beach, there are large outcroppings and a peninsula in the distance.
Oregon State Parks
A campsite at Cape Blanco State Park near Port Orford, Sept. 2020

Visitors to 17 Oregon State Park campgrounds along the coast are now able to make campsite reservations the same day. The pilot program is an effort to streamline reservations and allows for more flexibility when visiting the coast.

Previously, online reservations needed to be made at least 24 hours in advance. Oregon State Parks Public Information Officer Stefanie Knowlton said their coastal parks are the busiest in the Oregon State Parks system. Many visitors reserve the sites up to six months in advance. Knowlton said now that they’re offering same-day reservations, there’s more flexibility if people do cancel their trip.

"It’s hard to imagine what your life is gonna be six months from now, things happen and schedules change" Knowlton said. "I just looked online at our reservation system and found some openings at coastal parks today.”

Knowlton said almost one in four reservations for campsites in Oregon were canceled last year. To get a full refund, the agency requires visitors to cancel their reservation more than three days in advance. That leaves a short time for those campsites to be reserved again, especially with a 24-hour requirement for any new reservations. Knowlton said with same-day reservations people can pick a campsite in the morning, and won't need to worry about it still being available when traveling there.

“If you’re dedicated to keep checking that availability and you’re flexible about which campground you go to and also the days that you’re visiting, if it’s mid-week then you might have a good chance at securing something," she said.

The pilot program started last year with just two campsites, Nehalem Bay in May and Fort Stevens starting in December. But now it has been expanded to all Oregon State Park campgrounds on the coast.

Tent and RV campers can make a reservation for a site anytime. Reservations will need to be made by 6 p.m. the same day for structures like yurts or cabins. Knowlton said that's because staff need to prepare to give out keys or access codes.

The agency will install limited free Wi-Fi at beach campgrounds to access the reservation system. The eight dollar reservation fee is also being waived for any same-day reservations.

The pilot program is expected to run through this winter, when Knowlton said the agency will evaluate if same-day reservations should be expanded statewide.

After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the west coast.