Pilot program offers next day reservations at select state parks

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- We're just a few days away from Memorial Day and that means campgrounds are preparing for their first big weekend of business.

Starting this year, five Wisconsin state parks are testing out a pilot program that may make camping easier for last-minute planners.

Cooking over a fire and spending time with family is just one of the things Ron Gilligan says he loves about camping. One thing that isn't his favorite is making reservations.

“We usually go and hope for the best and we are lucky enough that we get good spots,” Gilligan said as he started his campfire at Lake Wissota State Park.

Right now to save a spot in Wisconsin state parks like Lake Wissota in Chippewa County you have to reserve online or over the phone at least 2-days before a camping trip.

Under a pilot program being tried out at five parks across the state that time to reserve is cut in half to accommodate for last minute planners. One of those pilot sites is Perrot State park in Trempealeau County. The ranger there says the hope is more people can take advantage of sites left open after cancelled reservations.

“This would allow people to pull up their smartphone if they are at Oktoberfest and reserve a site in 24-hours and we will be ready when they get here,” Perrot State Park Ranger Justin Wershofen said.

The Wisconsin DNR says if all goes well with the pilot program at the test sites this year it will expand to all state parks in the future.

The property supervisor at Lake Wissota State Park says despite the changes at the test sites if you want to get a reservation for a major holiday weekend you'll want to book well in advance.

“I would certainly book that reservation five or six months in advance because they do go fast,” Scott Erickson said.

As for the upcoming memorial holiday weekend, both Lake Wissota State Park and Perrot State Park say all of their sites are booked.

Both parks say they have sites still available for Fourth of July and Labor Day.

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