A bill that would completely overhaul the California State Park reservation system was introduced Monday in the Assembly.
Assembly Bill 472, authored by Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) would formally ban the use of automated programs, or as stated in the bill, “bots” to secure campsite reservations. According to AB 472, also known as the Equitable Campsite Reservations for All Act bots would no longer be allowed after passage of the bill, allowing users to return to a ‘first come, first serve’ basis.
The bill notes that bots can immediately reserve times as soon as they are available on the State Parks website. As reservations are made in six month increments on a rolling calendar and when in demand dates approach, the bots automatic filings always reserve spots first before people doing it manually online who are not as fast, disadvantaging people unable to afford to use such an automated service.
Assemblyman Cooley wrote the bill primarily to restore an equal reservation system.
“California’s parks are an integral part of our state’s natural endowment, to be protected and shared with all our citizens. AB 472 ensures that all Californians have an equal ability to access their state and local parks,” Assemblyman Ken Cooley said on Monday. “With so many aspects of life put on hold this past year, one of the few pleasures we should all be able to enjoy is the beauty of California’s nature.”
Many experts noted that AB 472 is also largely in response to COVID-19.
“With most types of traveling knocked out by COVID last year, we saw a huge upswing of camping,” explained corporate travel agent Becky Clark to the Globe. “National Parks and State Parks widely stayed open at least to some extent, and we saw this huge rush. A lot of corporate groups in particular wanted non-Zoom meetups but in safe isolated spaces with access to the internet and other necessities. Guess where those spots are at?”
“And a lot of people use computer programs to reserve early. You pay a fee, give the needed info, and they get it for you as early as possible. Say a campsite opens up new reservations at midnight on the 1st. For the average user, they can’t stand by with all their info already in because the system sometimes cycles around and it says for you to put it back in. That can be a few minutes, say, by 12:05. A bot, right at midnight, puts everything in and hits reserve. That is 12:00:03. That’s what bots are doing. And I think it’s a good thing – it makes people back on the level. Everyone has more of a fair shot this way.”
AB 472 currently has no opposition. The bill is expected to reach committee in the coming weeks.
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