Sierra sees spike in camping reservations
Summer is around the corner and Tahoe-area campgrounds are filling up fast since bookings were made available several months ago.
“It’s my understanding that reservations were up by somewhere between 10 and 17 percent,” said Ken Anderson, service manager of the California State Parks Sierra District.
Each year the state parks online registration system offers reservations seven months in advance, and if this year’s influx of early bookings is any indication, it’s going to be a busy summer.
“In February we had a record number of reservations,” said state parks spokeswoman Sheryl Watson. “… We almost sell out every year.”
Memorial Day Weekend reservations were up nearly 8 percent California-wide and nearly 18 percent in the Sierra District over last year, Watson said.
The Sierra District includes eight campgrounds between Lake Tahoe and the Truckee area.
“Our use is definitely up,” said Lake Tahoe sector Superintendent Susan Grove. “One of the reasons is because California population has just exploded. … What happens in the state generally correlates with what happens in state parks, too.”
Whether it’s a growing desire to see the Sierra up close from campgrounds, or the impact of increasing fuel prices, local interest in camping seems to be on the rise.
“I would say, in general, the majority of our sites were fuller than normal,” Tahoe National Forest spokesperson Ann Westling said about Memorial Day Weekend.
Westling said she can’t explain why Memorial Day Weekend brought more people this year than last, but said it could be attributed to the rapidly increasing cost of travel.
“Because of gas prices, people weren’t traveling as far, so they went to their closer national forest,” she said.
The Tahoe City Public Utility District operates a campground near Lake Forest in Tahoe City. The campsites were only slightly busier than this time last year, but still weren’t even half-full over the holiday weekend, said district assistant General Manager Cindy Gustafson.
Gustafson said the district campground isn’t a good representation of camping basin-wide because they operate on a first-come, first-served basis.
And while the boost in the state campground reservations means higher revenue for the parks, it also means more wear and tear on facilities.
But California State Parks recently received a large chunk of state money to be used for just that.
“We just got a nice boost,” Grove said. “The governor gave us $90 million for deferred maintenance, which is very exciting.”
The parks are currently working to repair and restore the outdated facilities in the Sierra District.
Some campgrounds have already kicked off their summer season while others wait a few more weeks before opening the grounds. Check the Web site http://www.parks.ca.gov or http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/tahoe/ for more information.
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