State ‘price-gouging’ out-of-state campers

Fees are doubling for visitors from other states

THE COVID-19 CANCELLATION of all campground reservations at Massachusetts state parks and then the restart of the season July 1 isn’t sitting well with out-of-state visitors who had been planning vacations to Massachusetts for a long time.

The state canceled all existing reservations for the entire summer on June 4 and announced that reservations for a smaller number of campsites could be made today for dates beginning on July 1. For out-of-state visitors, who made their original reservations months ago, the state’s approach is not only jeopardizing their vacations but costing them twice as much.

Gillian Gordon Hay of Brooklyn, Connecticut, months ago booked a campsite at Nickerson State Park in Brewster for two weeks at the start of August. That reservation is now canceled, and she will have to compete for fewer sites on fewer dates when the state’s reservation website opens for business at 9 a.m.

The cost will also be much higher. For Massachusetts residents, the cost of a campsite at Nickerson, the state’s most popular park, will remain $22 a night. For people from outside Massachusetts, the cost is going from $40 ($35 a night plus a $5-a-night surcharge on out-of-state visitors) to $75 a night ($70 a night plus the $5-a-night surcharge). The higher out-of-state prices will remain in effect for three months.

Hay said the state’s new pricing policy is unfair. She shared an email she sent to officials at the Department of Conservation and Recreation. “As a regular visitor to the Cape, and having camped at Nickerson State Park a number of times, I am absolutely appalled by the new charges for out-of-state campers,” she wrote. “It is common for out-of-state visitors to be charged a little extra (Connecticut charges $10-15 extra) and we were fine with the total costs being around $40, but to cancel our 2 week vacation in August, which we paid $568 for, and now require us to pay $75 per night, $1050, for a tent or RV site with no hookups is exorbitant and price gouging.”

She said the majority of license plates in the park are from out-of-state visitors who are spending thousands of tourist dollars in Massachusetts. “In a year when small business are struggling, this seems very unwise,“ she wrote.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Under Gov. Charlie Baker’s reopening plan, the state campgrounds could have opened earlier, but only for those with self-contained recreational vehicles or those staying in cabins and yurts. But the Department of Conservation and Recreation chose not to open at all. When campgrounds do reopen on July 1, many sites will be shut down to promote more social distancing and the state decided not to accept reservations for Yurts and cabins, despite its own guidance.

Seven campgrounds, including Beartown State Forest, Boston Harbor Islands State Park, Federated Women’s Club State Forest, Mt. Greylock State Reservation, Mt. Washington State forest, Waquoit Bay/Washburn Island, and Willard Brook State Forest, will not open at all. Campsites at Safari Field at Scusset Beach as well as all picnic areas and pavilions will be closed.