Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Mark: Had our first go at NY’s new Lake George picnic island use, fees

By Mark Frost, Chronicle Editor

New York State has implemented an entirely new system this summer for boaters using Lake George’s picnic sites on day use islands and lake mainland.

We had our first go with it last weekend. Here’s what we learned.

You can still buy a season day use pass — now called a Passport — but you can no longer buy it at a ranger station on the lake, as we always did at Glen Island.

Now you buy it through ReserveAmerica, which handles sale of all specific camping and day use permits.

The ranger station provided a slip of paper to help navigate the process. They’ve obviously had many inquiries. The paper was headed “Annual Day Use Passport. Available On-Line Only.”

It directed us to the site newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com and then to “Click Permits/Select Annual Passport.” Or call 1-800-777-9674.

When we used to buy the season permit at the ranger station, we were immediately provided the sticker to affix to our boat. Now, the slip of paper explained, “Permits sent from Warrensburg office.”

We did subsequently buy our Passport online, for which we were charged a total of $80. It arrived by mail three days later.

As before, the season pass does not guarantee use of any specific site. You can use any unoccupied day use site, but if someone buys the right to use that specific site, they can bump you.

We wanted to be sure to have a site for Father’s Day, so we did buy use of a specific site several days beforehand. Of course the day turned out cloudy and a little chilly. We were about the only ones out there! (Sons were here; terrific day.)

The price to buy use of a specific site for the day was $12, which broke down this way: $4.75 use fee and $7.25 transaction fee, which looks to be a gold mine for ReserveAmerica. The site also hits you with advertisements, which it wasn’t immediately clear how to escape from.

Day use sites can be reserved up to seven days in advance, but if you’re buying more than one day, each purchase is a separate transaction, thus generating that $7.25 transaction fee.

But our original purchaser — my wife Sandra — wasn’t able to buy a second day’s permit anyway. The system shut her out.

Instead I bought the additional day.

Moving the purchase of day use permits online is touted for its fairness and accessibility. Instead of having to go to a ranger station (perhaps lining up as early as 6 a.m. on a busy weekend), anybody can buy a permit via their computer or smartphone in real time — seeing exactly what’s available at that moment.

A DEC official said they’ll be installing QR codes at each picnic site, so people can just point their phone and access ReserveAmerica, assuming they have a cell signal, which we find is no sure thing.

The ranger stations have been made largely superfluous in the permit process. Our understanding is that they can’t even tell you what day use sites are available. You have to go directly to ReserveAmerica to access that information.

Campers apparently still have to check in at the ranger station on arrival, but they have to have bought the camping permits through ReserveAmerica.
That’s what we’ve learned so far.

Please chime in with you own knowledge and experience. Thanks.

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