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Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396201 by Mello Bunny
May 31, 2009 7:50am
Board
Really, I decided to not to renew my Friends of GA State Parks membership months ago, before the budget cuts, higher parking fees or closing parks. I wouldn't mind paying more and would gladly do it, if I could get good customer service.

I'm curious to know what experiences you've had with customer service at the parks. I haven't had any memorably bad experiences, but I haven't had any remarkably good ones, either. It IS, after all, a state park system where you're pretty much at the mercy of your own whims. It's state parks @ $5 a day for a family of 4 or Disney @ $350+ a day for that same family.

And, the following general statement is an unpaid advertisement... ;-)

Being a Friends member and receiving the discounts and perks has a "price" beyond the $$ you hand over for membership, and that little bit extra -- volunteering -- carries rewards greater than 10% off in the gift shop and the free night of camping.

It's certainly not obligatory that you volunteer, but when you do it changes your perspective. You get to know the folks who work at the park, you get to know the park, you learn what its strengths and weaknesses are from an insider's POV, you have the ability to change the park for the better... and in my case, you get to find all the best hiding spots before the park is even open... ;-)

I bring that up because there's talk of the state parks affected by the budget cuts maintaining some operations as they are now with volunteers. The first volunteers in line: Friends of GA SP -- quite possibly the new face of customer service at GA State Parks.

By the way, if they knew what they were doing they could be making more money by advertising "staycations". Offering five star accommodation at one star prices.

They are. Check out the upgraded Friends site. ;-)

*S
Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396199 by Mooky
May 31, 2009 7:52am
Board
Maybe Sonny can just lead a prayer vigil for Georgia to recieve lots of money. It worked so well when he did his rain dance.

He can't frickin do that until he legalizes the sale of beer on Sunday.

*S
Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396225 by Kirbert
May 31, 2009 9:04am
Board
I believe the term "staycation" refers to having a vacation in your own back yard, not at the nearest State Park.

I thought it meant stay at home but visiting local attractions.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staycation

That's how I meant it. I guess I didn't make that clear.
Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396225 by Kirbert
May 31, 2009 9:26am
Board
I believe the term "staycation" refers to having a vacation in your own back yard, not at the nearest State Park.

In a word: No.

*S
Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396262 by Mello Bunny
May 31, 2009 9:27am
Board
I thought it meant stay at home but visiting local attractions.

In a word: Yes.

*S
Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396270 by BrewHiker
May 31, 2009 9:30am
Board
The "There Will Be Marshmallows" event at FDR State Park is the PERFECT example of a staycation.

Leave home, spend a couple days camping, 'boxing, etc., round-trip is less than four hours, and it doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

*S
Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396235 by BrewHiker
May 31, 2009 9:55am
Board
I'm curious to know what experiences you've had with customer service at the parks.

First I like to say my problem is not with the front line people. They're fine, like you said, nothing that bad, but nothing that great. My problem is with policies that don't put the customer first. Most specifically, the cancellation policies for camping. You basically get punished if you don't want to camp in the rain or something comes up that prevents you from going. Because of their polices of charging two night if you cancel or change your plans less than three days before your reservation, we have:

1. Camped in the rain.

2. Paid for camping when we didn't go.

3. Paid for camp sites at two parks for the same weekend.

In all three situation, the forecast three days out was fine, but as it got closer to the date, it wasn't so fine. In all three situation, all I really wanted to do was change the date. For There Will Be Marshmallows I got a prayer chain going.

The last straw was with the closing parks. I had reservations for a family reunion on July 11th at Picketts Mill. I paid $125. Not that bad for what we were getting. Picketts Mill is one of the closing parks and my reservations have been cancelled. I called to change the location and they wanted to charge me $50 more. I know I said I would gladly pay more, but that wasn't 100% true. I don't mind the increase in parking. I still cheaper to park at a state park than in most major cities in America. And I wouldn't mind paying the extra $50 if I was changing the location because I wanted to, but I don't. The second facility is not as nice as the one at Picketts Mill. Because of their unwillingness to do right by their customers, they will not get an extra $50, they also won't get $125 and they won't get $5 parking fee per car for about 30 families. I would say that's pretty poor management.

They are. Check out the upgraded Friends site

I shouldn't have to go looking to find out what they have to offer. Most people, I suspect, don't know what they have to offer and wouldn't think to look. I should be hearing advertisements on the radio like I do for South Carolina State Parks.
Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396282 by Mello Bunny
May 31, 2009 2:14pm
Board
I should be hearing advertisements on the radio like I do for South Carolina State Parks.

Unfortunately, that costs big $$$. GA doesn't have it and I'm not sure how SC does either. I agree that it would be wonderful...just don't think it is reasonable in these times.

While I don't get why they would charge anyone a fee to change reservations when the State Park cancelled the original reservation, I do understand the three day rule. They are trying to cover their bases. If people are allowed to "save" a campsite and then change their minds for whatever reason at the last minute, the park loses out on another potential camper paying for that spot. Rain is just a camping hazard for me...it happens.

Interesting discussion...it is good to hear all of the different opinions!
Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396355 by Mark4
May 31, 2009 3:06pm
Board
Unfortunately, that costs big $$$. GA doesn't have it and I'm not sure how SC does either. I agree that it would be wonderful...just don't think it is reasonable in these times.

How can any business expect to make money without letting everyone know what products and services they offer? Sure it's expensive to make a commercial to show during prime time, but that might not be needed. The radio ads I'm sure are a lot cheaper.

Then there are other ways to advertise. Get a travel journalist to write a story about the parks. Get the local news to do a travel segment. At the very least, advertise on the internet and point people to the website. When I google hiking in Georgia, camping in Georgia, Bicycling in Georgia, cheap vacations in Georgia, family fun in Georgia, the parks website doesn't come up. That needs to change.

I know advertising isn't free, but how could they afford not to?
Re: Georgia State Parks Still Alive!!
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396369 by Mello Bunny
May 31, 2009 7:50pm
Board
First, I'm sorry you had an unpleasant experience. I have to ask, though: with whom were you dealing? A park employee, the park management or someone higher up in the chain?

Second, a new Commissioner just took the reins at GADNR, and he's a big-time State Park supporter. I wouldn't be surprised to see (or hear) an increase in advertising. Prime-time national network advertising doesn't work for local causes like this, with the exception of car dealers. The DNR would be wise to put its money where the audience it really wants to attract is: public broadcasting channels; Discovery, TLC, and Travel Channel (to name a few) through local cable networks. And then there are local papers, outdoors magazines, outfitter websites.

Backing up a little bit: the GA State Parks recently revamped its marketing strategy. It's gotten better, but there is still significant improvement to be made. The Friends of GA SP have jumped on the bandwagon, too. The direct marketing we've been doing for the new Chattahoochee Bend SP is "astounding" (word of the man in charge of the Friends org.). We already have 40 members for a park that won't be officially open until next year, and we expect to add another dozen during our first annual meeting next weekend.

The customer service issues, however, are embedded in bureaucratic policies that won't change overnight, so there will, unfortunately, be circumstances like the one you experienced... until the right people get involved and make the change happen.

However... as is the case with many customer NO-service issues, going up the hierarchy to get satisfaction is your best bet. It may be too late for that now, but hopefully the stain it's left will fade quickly.

Happy trails!

*S
Re: Georgia State Parks Still Alive!!
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396485 by BrewHiker
May 31, 2009 9:13pm
Board
First, I'm sorry you had an unpleasant experience. I have to ask, though: with whom were you dealing? A park employee, the park management or someone higher up in the chain?

It's the reservation center. First I talked to the poor lady that answered the phone, then her supervisor and tomorrow I will talk to the Assistant Manager of the DNR. She only works Monday - Thursday and I called on Friday.

I won't totally abandon the parks and maybe this fall, when I get the camping urge, I will feel different. Only time will tell.
Re: Georgia State Parks Still Alive!!
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396503 by Mello Bunny
May 31, 2009 9:20pm
Board
tomorrow I will talk to the Assistant Manager of the DNR

heh... when you do, tell her we'd like a couple inches of pine straw spread on every campsite... ;-)

*S
Re: Georgia State Parks Still Alive!!
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396508 by BrewHiker
May 31, 2009 9:24pm
Board
heh... when you do, tell her we'd like a couple inches of pine straw spread on every campsite... ;-)

Sure. I'll add it to my list. She won't think I'm crazy at all.
Re: Georgia State Parks Still Alive!!
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396485 by BrewHiker
Jun 1, 2009 12:54am
Board
The DNR would be wise to put its money where the audience it really wants to attract is: public broadcasting channels

They do sort of already do this. The show Georgia Outdoors as well as the Georgia Traveler are always highlighting the state parks....but unfortunately the numbers of folks that watch PBS is probably smaller than any other network.
Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396235 by BrewHiker
Jun 1, 2009 5:18am
Board
Being a Friends member and receiving the discounts and perks has a "price" beyond the $$ you hand over for membership, and that little bit extra -- volunteering -- carries rewards greater than 10% off in the gift shop and the free night of camping.

I'm just curious - what kind of things are there for you to volunteer to do?
Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396568 by buttercup
Jun 1, 2009 7:24am
Board
I'm just curious - what kind of things are there for you to volunteer to do?

I just researched and planted a series in Reed Bingham State Park in SW GA and discovered this volunteering opportunity. Sounds very interesting!

http://www.gastateparks.org/core/item/page.aspx?s=167648.0.1.5

MH
Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396568 by buttercup
Jun 1, 2009 7:33am
Board
what kind of things are there for you to volunteer to do?

Whew... if I were to list everything, you'd be reading for a long time!

So let's go with what we'll be doing in the near future at Chattahoochee Bend...

  • clean-up
  • rare/endangered flora protection
  • history hikes
  • archaeological scouting
  • mapping
  • trail blazing
  • trail building

and, of course, letterboxing...

*S
Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396623 by BrewHiker
Jun 1, 2009 7:34am
Board
Alright....so I bought a family membership to the Friends of GA State Parks too....I meant to do it originally when you sent out the details....

VERY COOL!
Thanks for the info!
-ShutterBug
Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396623 by BrewHiker
Jun 1, 2009 7:36am
Board
Oh... and there's also:

  • public awareness and relations
  • membership drives
  • communications (I'm doing the newsletter, press releases and website (which should be *live* in a day or two))
  • interaction with local government (Coweta County's support for getting the park built has been phenomenal)
  • event organization

... the list goes on...

*S
Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396626 by BrewHiker
Jun 1, 2009 7:41am
Board
So, do they give you a list of these opportunities when you sign on?
Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396631 by buttercup
Jun 1, 2009 7:58am
Board
So, do they give you a list of these opportunities..

Yes, they do.

Thanks, Buttercup.

You're welcome.
Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396643 by buttercup
Jun 1, 2009 8:02am
Board
I've tried about 10 searches and have gotten zero results... do they not have any volunteer events listed?
Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396644 by drgdlg
Jun 1, 2009 8:08am
Board
Volunteer events are handled by the Friends chapter at each park. If the chapter for your "home" park doesn't have a website, you should call or visit the park and ask for the chapter contacts.

*S
Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396647 by BrewHiker
Jun 1, 2009 8:11am
Board
I was just talking about the volunteer project calendar- I can't find anything on it!
Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396648 by drgdlg
Jun 1, 2009 8:16am
Board
Right. Check with the local Friends chapter. I can tell you what's happening at The Bend, but it's a bit far for you guys. ;-)

*S
Re: State Parks Closing
Board: State: Georgia
Reply to: #396648 by drgdlg
Jun 1, 2009 8:24am
Board
I was just talking about the volunteer project calendar- I can't find anything on it!

The Friends chapter list is here. -- a place to start.