Reserving a campsite at Wisconsin state parks will be almost $2 cheaper and easier when a new system takes effect Dec. 17.

Camis USA Inc. won the reservation contract through a bidding process, ending the previous company’s almost 18-year run, said Chris Pedretti, state parks business operation chief.

Besides dropping the price to make a park reservation from $9.65 to $7.75, the new system will offer enhanced search functions, new map features and a mobile-ready website, among other improvements. Users will be able to search for campsites on a map or by property, date or type of equipment they have, Pedretti said.

Devil’s Lake State Park Superintendent Steve Schmelzer said the new system should be less cumbersome than the current website, administered by ReserveAmerica, and allow users to reserve multiple sites in a single reservation, rather than having to make separate ones. People also will be able to reserve park shelters and amphitheaters, which weren’t previously available.

He said as far as he’s seen, “It’s a little bit more user-friendly than the ReserveAmerica system was.”

Skillet Creek Media owner Derrick Mayoleth, who regularly writes about issues surrounding Devil’s Lake and other state properties, called the existing system outdated. While he noted he can’t say much about Camis’ system until he can try it himself, Mayoleth said ReserveAmerica’s has needed upgrades for years. Its issues include being difficult to use with mobile devices such as smartphones and a mapping system that “isn’t very good.”

“Everything I’ve heard about this (new) system sounds great, and the system that they currently are working with — that needed to go a long time ago,” Mayoleth said. “So, it’s great to see it go.”

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Pedretti said almost 94 percent of the state’s reservations are made online. There are times during the year when the website gets busy — when popular dates become available for reservations — but he said users shouldn’t notice any slowdowns once the site is active.

“We have one of the highest percentages of web reservations in the country,” Pedretti said. “That’s a good thing.”

Camis operates systems for Maryland, Michigan and Washington state parks, as well as several in Canada. Wisconsin’s website will look similar to Michigan’s but with slight differences, Pedretti said.

Reservations that already have been booked will be transferred to the new system automatically from Dec. 1-16, according to a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources news release. During that period, no new reservations can be made, but users still can log in through the DNR website to set up an account and view their reservations.

Schmelzer doesn’t think those two weeks will pose much of an issue. Sites can be reserved up to 11 months in advance, so early December tends to be a slow time anyway, he said, as most people who like to camp during the peak season already have booked their favorite sites for next summer.

“This is probably the best time they possibly could choose,” Mayoleth said, noting his web traffic shows many people wait until after Christmas to book their camping trips.

The price change affects all state park reservations, regardless of location. Pedretti said the fee for running the website is set by the contracted company, and Camis proposed $7.75. A separate change made in February to base pricing on demand at each property increased daily admission and camping fees at Devil’s Lake.

Follow Susan Endres on Twitter @EndresSusan or call her at 745-3506.

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