05/01/09 — State parks system getting overhaul

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State parks system getting overhaul

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on May 1, 2009 1:46 PM

SEVEN SPRINGS -- The 93-year-old state parks system is getting a high-tech overhaul.

This week the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation launched an advanced Web-based reservation system which will allow campers and outdoorsmen to book their camp sites, pavilions and picnic areas online.

The state's revamped Website -- www.ncparks.gov -- contains a link to the secure reservation system for each of the 37 state parks that have reservable facilities available. For the old-school nature lover, reservations can still be made by telephone at 1-877-722-6761.

"This certainly is one of the most significant advances in terms of visitor service in the history of the state parks system," said Lewis Ledford, state parks director. "A reservations system was requested by our visitors and we're pleased to be able offer this service, especially at a time when economic conditions may prompt more North Carolinians to look to their state parks for family recreation opportunities."

Advanced reservations can be made online 24 hours a day as long as they are scheduled for July 15, 2009 or later. However, reservations won't be required for a campsite or picnic shelter if the facility is not being used. A limited number of campsites will be set aside for walk-up registration at some parks.

According to office assistant Pam Pearson at Hammocks Beach State Park in Swansboro, the transition from the old system to the new program has been relatively seamless.

"We have not heard any negative comments regarding the new system," said Pearson. "We do have it up and running and we have received several reservations since the launch."

The lateral work between the reservation call center and the Website make it easy on park employees to keep track of visitors.

"When the reservation gets to me I don't know whether it was done on the Internet or one through the call center," said Pearson. "Everything comes through in a uniform fashion and it should be very convenient once the system is fully integrated."

Hammocks Beach, on Bear Island, attracts campers and fishermen from across eastern North Carolina with its primitive beauty. The park features 14 family (6 persons) campsites and three group (12 persons) campsites.

The state recently completed a dredging project in the Cow Channel that had required parts of Bear Island to be closed. Today the island will reopen with drinking water, outdoor shower facilities and restrooms all back in operation.