Lawmakers want to give NY’ers preference for booking campsites

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A bipartisan bill sponsored by Senator John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, and Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, D-Maspeth, would give New York state residents preference in reserving space in state parks before accepting reservations from out-of-state residents.

New York state has 180 state parks ranging from Long Island to Niagara Falls. The parks offer endless opportunities including campsites, hiking trails, beaches, boat launches, and golf courses. But the current system for reserving campsites is open to both in-state and out-of-state families with no restrictions or differences in fees, so New Yorkers are often shut out from using their own parks, especially in the busy summer season.

Legislators sponsoring this bill (S.3051/A.9344) argue that New Yorkers pay taxes to fund the operation of state parks and are also the majority of visitors, therefore, it is only appropriate to give them preference for making reservations.

Specifically, the bill would provide a “reasonable period of time” for New Yorkers to book their campsites, cottages, cabins or pavilions first, before they are opened to out-of-state residents.

“As summer approaches, many New York families will be making plans to vacation in some of our state’s most scenic and historic parks. However, the current campsite reservation system can complicate their efforts, since it does not distinguish between state residents and non-residents,” DeFrancisco said. “Since taxes paid by New York residents help fund the operation of our state parks, it only makes sense that state residents should be afforded the best opportunity to enjoy these recreational areas.”

Rather than impose a higher fee for out-of-state residents, which some other states currently do, this law would continue to encourage the use of New York state parks by everyone while simultaneously providing state residents with the best possible opportunity to enjoy New York’s parks and campgrounds.

Last season, more than 2 million people camped at New York state parks, up from 1.965 million the previous year. Those visitors booked state park campsites, cabins and cottages for more than 618,000 nights in 2015. That represents a 4 percent increase over 2014’s record of 594,400 overnight stays.

New York state outsources its reservation system to ReserveAmerica, a private company that handles reservations for state, federal and privately owned campgrounds across the United States.

The bill passed the Senate late in the session but did not move out of the Assembly Tourism Committee.

A similar bill (S.2714/A.0747) was also proposed last session by Sen. Robert Ortt and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, but did not make it past the Tourism Committee in either house.