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Oregon parks discontinues 'discovery' discounts

Oregon’s Parks & Recreation Department will replace its across-the-board “discovery season” discount program with targeted deals starting in 2015.

Discovery season discounts will remain in effect through April 30, 2015, and reduce tent and RV campsite costs by $4 per night. The annual discount was created nearly 20 years ago, and is offered at all state park campgrounds in Oregon. “Discovery Season has done its job,” said Chris Havel, OPRD associate director. “It was great way to introduce yurts to Oregonians and to encourage fall and winter camping, but we now need to move away from a ‘one size fits all’ discount.”

Havel cited a continuing decline in lottery revenue as part of the reason for the move. Nearly all of OPRD’s funding comes from user fees, a portion of RV licensing revenue, and 7.5 percent of net lottery proceeds. Visitors contribute $21 million of the $48 million a year it takes to operate state parks. OPRD estimates that returning to a year-round rate structure with targeted discounts could translate into an additional $400,000 to $500,000 a year. Havel said campers will begin to see a new type of discount in 2015 and beyond. “We love the idea of discounts and rewards for our customers. But we have to be much more targeted,” he said. “It makes better business sense to offer incentives that attract campers to sites that would normally sit empty, instead of discounting sites that would fill anyway.” Havel said customers have long asked for ways to make last-minute decisions about camping.

“With service improvements in our reservation system, for example, we can better anticipate where last-minute vacancies will be, and we can then make those spots available at a special rate,” he explained.

Effective Jan. 1, 2015, customers will be able to reserve campsites from nine months to just one day before their trip. Currently, that reservation “window” is two days, not one.

OPRD contracts with Reserve America, a centralized online reservation service that handles 49 public and private park systems across the United States. Customers can also reserve campsites by calling OPRD’s call center in Portland, 1-800-452-5687, during regular business hours.

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