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State Turns Away Some Campers Paying For Sites

By Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent
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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.

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