Changes are coming to the Reserve California System, specifically cancellation and no-show requirements, plus reminder emails.
Assembly Bill No. 618 was signed into law on October 8, 2023 and it goes into affect on January 1, 2024.
Here is the text of the Bill –
Assembly Bill No. 618
An act to add Section 5010.1.5 to, and to add and repeal Section 5010.1.6 of, the Public Resources Code, relating to state parks.
[ Approved by Governor October 08, 2023. Filed with Secretary of State October 08, 2023. ]
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST
AB 618, Bauer-Kahan. State parks: reservations.
Existing law establishes the Department of Parks and Recreation and vests the department with control of the state park system. Existing law authorizes the department, whenever significant savings can be achieved, to enter into a contract with any natural person, corporation, partnership, or association for the operation of a reservation system for the state park system and for the collection of state park fees in connection therewith.
This bill would require any contract the department enters into, on and after January 1, 2024, for purposes of managing the department’s reservation system, to reflect specified rules, authorizations, and requirements, including, among other things, that a reservation holder who cancels a reservation within 2 to 6 calendar days before the reservation start date may forfeit the cost of the reservation for the first night plus any reservation fees. The bill would require the department to, on or before January 1, 2025, implement a reservation drawing for up to 5 of the most popular units of the state park system, as provided. The bill would require the department to report, on or before January 1, 2028, on the outcomes of the reservation drawing to the Legislature. The bill would repeal the above-mentioned provisions regarding the reservation drawing on January 1, 2029.
Vote: MAJORITY Appropriation: NO Fiscal Committee: YES Local Program: NO
The people of the State of California do enact as follows:
SECTION 1. Section 5010.1.5 is added to the Public Resources Code, to read:
5010.1.5. (a) On and after January 1, 2024, any contract the department enters into for purposes of managing the department’s reservation system pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 5010.1 shall reflect the rules, authorizations, and requirements of this section.
(b) For units of the state park system operated by the department, the department may restrict a person from reserving a site under any of the following circumstances:
(1) For more than seven consecutive nights during peak season.
(2) If the person has occupied a site at the same unit proposed for reservation for more than 30 days in a calendar year.
(3) (A) By using the online reservation system if the person failed to show up for at least three reservations in one calendar year.
(B) The person’s ability to reserve a site using the online reservation system may resume within one calendar year from the date of the reservationholder’s third failure to show up for a reservation.
(C) This paragraph shall not apply to reservations and occupation of sites obtained using walkup reservations or first-come-first-served systems.
(c) A reservation holder who cancels a reservation seven calendar days or more before the reservation start date shall receive a refund of the cost of the reservation, excluding any reservation fees.
(d) A reservation holder who cancels a reservation within two to six calendar days before the reservation start date may forfeit the cost of the reservation for the first night plus any reservation fees.
(e) A reservation holder who cancels a reservation or fails to show up within 24 hours of the reservation start date may forfeit the entire cost of the reservation plus any reservation fees.
(f) A reservation holder may either show up or provide notice of late arrival to staff at the state park unit where the reservation is held within 24 hours of the reservation start date in order to avoid forfeiting the entire cost of the reservation.
(g) A camp or lodging site for which the reservation holder cancels a reservation three calendar days or more before the reservation start date may be made available for reservation through the online reservation system.
(h) A reservation holder shall receive at least two reminders via email or another form of communication, as follows:
(1) Ten days before the reservation start date, that informs the reservationholder of cancellation at least seven days before the reservation start date to receive a refund of the cost of the reservation, excluding any reservation fees.
(2) Four days before the reservation start date, informing the reservationholder of cancellation within three calendar days of the reservation start date to avoid the forfeiture of one night of reservation costs plus any reservation fees.
(i) As part of the communication described in subdivision (h), a reservationholder shall be informed that the entire cost of the reservation plus any reservation fees may be forfeited if the reservationholder does either of the following:
(1) Cancels within 24 hours of the reservation start date.
(2) Fails to either show up or notify staff at the state park unit where the reservation is held of a late arrival no later than 24 hours following the reservation start date.
(j) Forfeited reservation costs, as described in subdivisions (d) and (e), shall be deposited into the State Parks and Recreation Fund, established pursuant to Section 5010, and may be used, upon appropriation by the Legislature, for purposes of deferred maintenance projects.
(k) This section shall only apply to a camp or lodging site that uses the reservation system described in subdivision (b) of Section 5010.1.
SEC. 2. Section 5010.1.6 is added to the Public Resources Code, to read:
5010.1.6. (a) On or before January 1, 2025, the department shall implement a reservation drawing for up to five of the most popular units of the state park system. The department shall determine the top units for purposes of this section based on units that have the most booking interest six months before the reservation date.
(b) At any unit of the state park system described in subdivision (a), the department may continue to use the reservation system authorized pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 5010.1 and as described in Section 5010.1.5 for a subset of camping or lodging sites within the state park unit for purposes of providing an analysis between the reservation drawing process established by this section and existing reservation system processes.
(c) (1) On or before January 1, 2028, the department shall provide a report to the Legislature on the outcomes of the reservation drawing established pursuant to subdivision (a), including, if pursued by the department, any analysis obtained pursuant to subdivision (b).
(2) A report submitted to the Legislature pursuant to this subdivision shall be submitted in compliance with Section 9795 of the Government Code.
(d) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2029, and as of that date is repealed.
MY THOUGHTS –
I know like many of you do, that making a reservation for popular State Parks can be near impossible. I miss Reserve America where I could choose any date of the month, not date specific 6 months out like Reserve California. I think it was easier to book a site for some reason.
I’m happy that this bill requires reminder notices. I was once told by a fellow camper, that they completely forgot they booked a spot. So a forgotten reservation creates an empty site. You’ve seen them. A site on a busy weekend empty. Frustrating. Hopefully this bill will open some dates up. But … not with much notice. If they send an email out 10 days prior to your arrival date, a site could open up, but with not much notice to you to go camping.
BUT .. and here is the big BUT … Do you think travel companies are snatching up sites to resell? If yes, this bill does nothing to restrict that. I need to look further into this as I think it is happening.
WHAT IS A RESERVATION DRAWING?
In the new law they mention Reservation Drawing. Here are the FAQ’s for that topic – (source)
What is the Reservation Drawing?
Reservation Drawing is a new pilot program that uses a lottery-style system for the opportunity to make a reservation in high-demand campgrounds. This pilot program is currently underway ONLY to reserve the Steep Ravine Cabins in Mount Tamalpais State Park. Using the ReserveCalifornia reservation system, visitors can apply for free for the reservation drawing up to eight months in advance, with the drawings conducted seven months ahead of the reservation dates. If selected, winners have 30 days to claim and pay for their reservation. Any unclaimed inventory is released for reservation during the normal six-month rolling window. Unsuccessful applicants will receive one point to be used in future drawings, which increases their chances of winning until they are awarded a reservation. Once a visitor wins a reservation, their points are removed and their balance starts at zero.
How do I apply for a Reservation Drawing?
To apply for a Reservation Drawing, visitors must have a profile with ReserveCalifornia. The current Reservation Drawings can be found above the Steep Ravine Cabins campground map when viewing Mount Tamalpais State Park. Visitors can also apply by phone through the customer contact center at (800) 444-PARK (7275), or for international callers, (833) 448-7278.
Is it free to apply for a Reservation Drawing?
Yes. During the pilot phase, there is no fee to apply for a Reservation Drawing for the Steep Ravine Cabins at Mount Tamalpais State Park. However, future drawings may require a small fee to apply.
Does the Reservation Drawing award free reservations?
No. The Reservation Drawing does not award free reservations. The drawing is held to give all visitors an equal chance to compete for a reservation at the highly sought-after Steep Ravine Cabins at Mount Tamalpais State Park. If a visitor is awarded their reservation choice, they must claim and pay for the reservation within 30 days to keep it. Any unclaimed inventory will be released for reservation six months in advance.
Will I be notified of the Reservation Drawing results?
Yes. Visitors who apply for a Reservation Drawing will be sent an email with their application number. After the drawing, visitors will be notified via email whether they were awarded a reservation. Winners will have 30 days to claim and pay for their reservation. Any unclaimed inventory will be released for reservation six months in advance.
How long do I have to book my awarded reservation?
Visitors will have 30 days to claim and pay for their reservation.
What are points?
Points refer to a reward system for unsuccessful applicants in the program. Each unsuccessful applicant receives one point, and these points can be used as additional chances to win in future drawings. There is no limit to the number of points a visitor can accumulate, and each point represents one additional chance to be awarded their reservation choice if it is available in a future drawing. Points earned during the pilot will be carried over.
Will my points be used if I do not book my awarded reservation choice?
If a visitor is awarded one of their reservation choices, their points will be reset to zero. However, if they cancel their reservation, the points used for that reservation will still be marked as “used” and reset to zero. Any canceled inventory is released during the on-sale six months in advance or the following day at 8 a.m. if it is within the six-month reservation window.
How many times can I sign up for the drawing to receive a point?
Each visitor is limited to one entry per drawing.
What are reservation choices?
Reservation choices refer to the visitor’s preferred details for their stay at the park, including the unit type, arrival date, nights, trailer lengths and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-only option. Visitors can create up to three reservation choices, and if the winning visitor’s first choice is available, they will be awarded that reservation choice. If their first choice is not available, the system will award their second choice. Visitors are encouraged to create multiple reservation choices with different variations to increase their chances of winning the drawing.
Are ADA sites included in Reservation Drawings?
Yes. ADA sites are included in the Reservation Drawings, and visitors can select an ADA site as their preferred choice. However, it is important to note that if a visitor does not qualify for an ADA site, their reservation will be canceled at the park during check-in. In this case, the reservation fee, cancellation fee and one night’s camping fee will be charged, and the reservation will be canceled.
Will an awarded reservation count toward the 30-night calendar limit?
Yes, an awarded reservation will count toward the 30-night calendar limit at most California state parks. Visitors will not be able to claim or pay for a reservation if it exceeds the 30-night stay limit.
YOUR THOUGHTS –
Please leave a comment below. Thank you!