State Turns Away Some Campers Paying For Sites

By Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent

BOSTON (CBS) – Some avid campers won’t be visiting their favorite Massachusetts campsite this year, and it is not because they don’t want to.

State officials have told some paying customers their site was given away to someone else for free.

A camping vacation would have made Kathy really happy. However, she says, “the more questions I asked, the angrier I got.”

She says it with a smile on her face but she was really mad.

You see, her family loves camping and they were looking forward to going back to the very popular Wompatuck State Park in Hingham.

WBZ-TV’s Joe Shortsleeve reports

And why not, it is 4,000 scenic acres of trails, relaxing camp sites and plenty of room to ride a bike. And Kathy and her family fell in love with one particular site.

On the map of Wompatuck State Park it is known as K-9. It’s a shady hideaway close to the bathrooms and picnic tables. To make sure they could all return to that special spot, she paid in full in February for her summer vacation.

She even showed us her receipt.

Then one day last spring, she got a call and was told the park supervisor had decided to give her hideaway to someone else.

Shortsleeve asked, “So you paid for it and they canceled you?”

Kathy answered, “Well they wanted to transfer me, but for me… that was the site I wanted and that was the site we agreed upon.”

Shortsleeve asked, “and they told you that your site had become a host site?”

Kathy answered, “yes and I said what does that mean?”

Well that is a good question.

WBZ-TV has learned a specific number of host sites are handed out by park supervisors every year for free… to people who agree to act as “hosts”.

Now in return for the site, these hosts must volunteer at least 20 hours a week doing all kinds of odd jobs.

However Kathy says, “it is not fair that someone gets a free ride when we all go there and we pay for our camp sites. If they have work that is being done then that shouldn’t bump a paid person off.”

Gary Briere oversees the “host” camping program for the state.

“I apologize for the mistake that was made and I appreciate her passion of the Massachusetts State Parks.”

Briere says a problem with the reservation system showed Kathy’s favorite site was available when it really was not this year.

“I would say it is a rare event. I will not say it was a singular event… in any reservation system you are going to find certain glitches.”

But in era of shrinking budgets, Briere says state campgrounds depend on these volunteer hosts to keep things running smoothly, performing odd jobs like managing the recycling program.

Briere says, “they are a real blessing to us, a real asset to the system and we appreciate them.”

However Kathy calculated the lost revenue from just that one site. She says it can really add up.

“It is about $1,500 for the summer for one site and I think that is a lot of money.”

The state does not dispute that the hosts living on these prime sites all summer are getting something of value. But Gary Briere says what they provide in return is vital to those who love summer camping.

The state says about 150 people apply each year to become hosts and about 100 are selected.

  • Jules

    The hosts are not getting a “free ride”, they are WORKING 20 hours a week for the state. What part of that does this dimwit not understand? Talk about entitled. This is her biggest problem? She actually went to a news outlet about this?

    • Paula Mariano

      How about the State Parks not letting you stay in the park after you already stayed in it for 14 days.But the park has a ton of openings but you cant stay so talk about loosing revenue how much are they loosing with not letting us Tax Payers in

      • MATaxpayer

        So let’s see…. I am trying to think this through…

        You can’t stay for more than 14 days and pay for it, BUT you can stay a whole summer for FREE!!!

        HA! There is some irony in that.

        I know that you do not want to have people live there, and I understand the rules for keeping it fair so that everyone has a chance. BUT if you are a host you can choose a prime site and not have to pay for it (and do a little work, for which there is no accountability for).

      • Paula Mariano

        Yup you got that right.
        Yes you are right why they have that rule but if there are parks that are not full why not take in the money and let people stay longer.

  • RJF

    There should be some follow up done to see how many hosts are working the 20 hours a week.

    • Gene M in NJ

      How long has Kathy been camping??? I guess not long since she has never heard of a campground host. Oh they are not staying for free, they work and have to put up with people like her. I hope you can find another special spot.

  • MATaxpayer

    THIS is about accountability on a loss of revenue for the State. You mean to tell me that the state turned away revenue?????? WOW!!! They should have moved the “host” to a site that had not been paid for!!!!!!! That is Taxachusetts for you!! They raise our taxes, and then refuse revenue for something that they should be getting revenue for????? What a crock!!!!!

    • Gene M in NJ

      Since the host stays for a lengthier time then most they will usually get a prime spot or maybe one that has full hookups. Your state did not turn away anything, they offered her another campsite months before her arrival.

    • wompacamper

      They did not turn away revenue. They offered to transfer her to a different site. The revenue would have still come in. I’ve camped at wompatuck for over 20 years, and there are at least 50 sites that are better than K-9. As stated, the reservation company messed this up. Maybe someone should look into Reserve America and their practices of double booking etc.

      • Steve

        She already paid, if they are going to transfer someone they should transfer the host. She made the reservation, she pre-paid for it. Tough sh!t host, looks like you’re going to the next lot. This is how the state treats people? First come first serve is the only fair resolution. I appreciate what the hosts are doing but it’s not like they don’t want to be there doing this, I’d say that’s pretty evident when apx 50 applicants get turned away. Why should they get the pick of sites just because they are working there?

      • Steve

        And maybe it’s not about other sites being “better”, maybe it’s just that they really like that spot. It’d be like a couple making early reservations at a particular table in a restaurant because that’s where they got engaged, and then at the last minute the maître d tells them a big client came in that wanted that table so they still have their reservation, just at a different table. Might not be a big deal to the restaurant but it is to that couple, that’s why they booked it early. Just like with this woman. It’s just not right.

      • SDD

        @Steve, it’s not like that at all. It’s like a couple wanted a table, but the table was booked. The guy taking reservations messed up and said to the couple that the table was open. When the couple arrived, the table was in use as it was already booked. Was a mistake made? Yup. Was it handled in an appropriate manner? Yup on that front too.

  • Justin

    Camping should be free. It’s the WOODS! The environmentalists balk when you drive an SUV, but their idea of camping is plowing down trees to make restrooms and facilities for use by paying campers so that they may then charge $$$ to pay rangers, etc to “run” the woods….what a crock. Keep nature wild and free for all!

    • brat500

      Camping is free throughout Massachusetts. There are millions of acres of beautiful unspolied forest everywhere. Ya just gotta go find it. Sometimes it requires a long hike with only the essentials. These State Parks are for tailgate camping. Ask yer local Boys Scout leaders where to go for real primative camping, but only if you are capable of such. We do it year round, from the heat of summer to the frigid climes of winter.

  • Kathy

    Seriously BZ, this is news? Certainly you can do better than this story. Good grief

    • Steve

      It’s better than reading about someone shot, robbed or a hate crime for once.

  • John T

    OK, here is another take on this.
    These “hosts” are working at least 20 hours a week for exchange of their “free”
    For starters, it is not free… The state is giving them the site in exchange for work.
    So, lets just say for argument sake that we would normally pay these workers about $10.00 per hour for the odd jobs and such.
    If my math is correct, that equals $200.00 per week (20 hours x $10.00 per hour).
    Camping season varies but I am going to say that in Massachusetts, the busy season is about 24 weeks (mid-April to mid-September).
    So, here we go with math again, that would equal $4800.00 for the season (24 weeks x $200.00 per week).
    Now, on average the site would normally generate about $1500.00 revenue for the season as stated in the.
    Hmmm… So lets figure this out. State issues “host” sites and “loses” $1500.00 but “gains” $4800.00 in exchange for not paying payroll.
    I don’t know but according to my math, it looks like the state is SAVING $3300.00 ($4800.00 – $1500.00) by allowing a “host” to stay at a “free” site.
    Now mind you, there are usually more than one host but I only did the math for only the one just to show that the state actually makes out and wins in these instances.
    BTW, I am an experienced camper and even though I have never been a “host” at a campground, I have had the pleasure to meet a few who have and they work harder than most state employees who get paid much, much more.

    • Joe


      Excellent point. And actually the savings is much greater than $3,300. You have to figure in the matching payroll taxes an employer must pay on each employee. Also, workers compensation insurance which is calculated solely on a company’s total payroll.

      And I think your $10/hr figure, (maybe accurate for part time summer help) is a little low. This is Massachusetts so I’m sure a percentage of even seasonal employees would have to be union which would cost 3 times that.

      Bottom line is for once I have to say the state is actually thinking outside the box to save money like a private business would.

      • John T

        Thanks Joe.
        I know that it probably would be a lot more in “savings” than that but just for the sake of a simple argument, I was showing the basics.
        In my opinion, that state is probably saving well over $350k per year by using “hosts” in exchange for paid employees in the state parks and it has been this way for years.
        The thing is, many private campgrounds do the same thing so it is nothing new.

    • tsal

      Very well laid out and completely accurate. As usual the headlines are misleading and the woman clearly hasn’t a clue that in fact this site was not given to someone for “free”.

      In her defense, if I paid for a site and was told I could have the site, I’d be livid too. I am not sure I would “cut off my nose to spite my face” by declining to accept a second site but I’d want it at a discounted price. Fair is fair.

  • aristonice

    It’s a shame that this happened and that Kathy felt so strongly that no other site would do. I’ve been to a state park that had a “host” and these people were hardly freeloaders! They were two retirees who made themselves available throughout the day. I don’t think they once left the park while I was there.

    As for “camping should be free,” that’s a nice sentiment, but I’m fine with paying my $7-12 per night to get clean facilities. Sure, state parks may be too manicured for some people, but that doesn’t make them any less a treasure.

    Frankly, I’m more appalled by the punctuation in this article.

    • steve

      I don’t think anyone is desputing the work ethic of the hosts. They do a lot for the parks and the state. But that doesn’t mean they should have the entitlement to whichever site they want. If the site is avail fine, but if someone already booked and PAID for the site, they shouldn’t be allowed to move their reservation.

  • cant win

    i believe scusset beach has 3 host sites i cud be wrong but i know the sam people get them all the timealso why dont they use prisoners for those jobs that would save thousands

    • Ernest E. Breau Jr.

      Yeah lets have convicts around our families. Good Idea!!! Not

  • Jeffrey

    First off, they offered her a change of campsites, which she refused. Secondly, how do you figure this is lost revenue? The hosts work 20 hours a week! I know other states have the same hosts on-site, such as at Sebago Lake State Park in Maine (which is their busiest park, I might add).

    Kathy needs to chill out.

  • MATaxpayer

    Wampatuck is NEVER at full capacity. Does that change your mind about the lost revenue?

    This is about lost revenue. The contract was for the site reserved. Even in the state offering to transfer her, in essence the original site reservation contract was cancelled.

    In that case, since it was the state making the changes, —maybe they really owe this woman the cancellation fee I am sure that she would have had to pay if she had said “I have changed my mind, I really wanted a different site all along…”

    Lets say you are on the Cape and reserve a 24′ sailboat. You pay for the reservation in full before you even get to the dock. You then get to the dock and they instead give you a 24′ motorboat. The other boat is needed for an exchange student who is doing work for them. A boat is a boat right? Would you consider that a transfer or a they cancelled my contract?

    This woman paid for and had a contract for this site. Just because the state wants to change that does not make the original contract convenient. The State played a game with her. She at least tried to show the MA Taxpayers how the state handles it’s customers.

    Seriously, is this how you (as MA Taxpayers) want the state to treat the Tourists that come to this state? This state depends on Tourists. Remember that! One bad experience is all it takes for people to bring their money elsewhere!!!


  • canoenana

    That lady needs to get a grip. Hosts are a part of the camping scene now. Hew Hampshire and Maine also have the program as does the National Forest. The program is keeping our camping fees at comfortable levels. The hosts earn their keep and provide camper help when needed.
    The lady was offered a site change back in the spring. Time for a change and new memories in a new site.

  • Maureen Owen

    Dear Joe Shortsleeve, my sister and I were camping on K11 a few weeks ago and the “host” at K9 had us kicked out of the park with my 11 year old arthritic dog and we didn’t even have a radio! She is NOT A HOST-SHE THINKS SHE IS A STATE TROOPER!! And our vacation was completely ruined also! We are getting our money back even if we have to go to Governer Patrick!

  • Hutch

    Having worked for 3 years as a host camper the comments made about the sites being free really upset me. Yes, we are asked to give them 20 hours a week in exchange for the site which hardly makes it free. We work our tails off for the 20 hours and then some. We are suppose to get one day a week off but that never happens because there aren’t enough hosts to cover. Try hosting for a couple of weeks and then make your comments (good or bad).

  • disgusted

    This is a joke. I have camped @ Horseneck Beach for many years. They have 100 sites of which 3 are Host sites & 3 are Management sites. It has 1 bath house that takes about 2 hrs. to clean. There are 3 to 4 staff memebers on day shift (not including the supervisor). On my most recent trip there the host signs were not posted @ the designated host sites but the site were occupated by hosts. I know this because these same host are there year after year for most of the whole season. What are they doing? Oh, forgot to mention, on my recent camping trip I questioned a site that was open & was told ” I know its not listed on the map but that’s a host site for our host who’s on vacation. During my stay, this host moved from another site to this host site, yup, a 4th host now for 96 paying campers. You know what she did that week, 2 hrs of arts & crafts & 2 hrs of Bingo. That was a grand total of 4 hrswork for a prime site. They should do away with the hosts @ Horseneck & have the staff clean the bath house. The majority of the staff sit all day anyway. But as I said before, it’s politics as usual.

  • John D

    Why would anyone want to be camped next to a Bathroom facility…Noise, smells and traffic. Who knows?

  • Cheryl

    I recently stayed at Scusset Beach and I found the hosts friendly and helpful the office staff especially, was very rude and abrupt (when they weren’t just hanging around doing nothing, Their supervisor should do his job and change their attitudes, if they don’t want to work their they should just quit! I id notice it is the same hosts there all the time, they reaaly should give others a chance to work there

  • O'Really

    As someone with direct knowledge about this – go to and search “Wompatuck” – and knows this person, let me say that this is much ado about nothing and further, the host is an older person with limited mobility, who needed to be at that site, while Kathy is fully able to walk a long way to the bathroom as is her family. And there are better sites just as close to the bathroom as K9 which were offered to her Draw your own conclusions from this information.

  • MATaxpayer

    So let me get this straight…. I know that I am just a MA Taxpayer…..

    This Host, who is supposed to work for the campground in EXCHANGE for a free campsite is an older person who has a limited mobility? How can she clean bathrooms? Take out the trash? What is her exact role?

    I think that there are bigger issues with how this host program is being run. Again, just another example of the wonderful accountability the state has with its departments.

    Why is it much ado about nothing? Because you say so?????

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