The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) new state park and recreation area reservation system will be operational again starting Thursday, March 22 at 10 a.m.
The new online system has been upgraded significantly, but due to expected high demand, reservations will only be accepted for specific dates during the initial eight-day rollout.
After the online system was overloaded and crashed March 1, the DNR is taking a conservative approach so the system does not have to handle the entire inventory of campsites and cabins at once. It also ensures all customers have an equal opportunity to make reservations.
Reservations can be made online at mndnr.gov/reservations or by calling 866-857-2757 (TTY 952-936-4008).
Phone and online reservations will be accepted according to the following schedule:
Thursday, March 22 - reservations for arrival dates through April 21, 2012.
Friday, March 23, through Sunday, March 25 - reservations for arrival dates through May 12, 2012.
Monday, March 26 - reservations for arrival dates through June 2, 2012.
Tuesday, March 27 - reservations for arrival dates through June 30, 2012.
Wednesday, March 28 - reservations for arrival dates through July 21, 2012.
Thursday, March 29 - reservations for arrival dates through Aug. 11, 2012.
Friday, March 30, through Sunday, April 1 - reservations for arrival dates through
Sept. 2, 2012.
Monday, April 2 - reservations for arrival dates up to a year in advance.
Customer service hours have been extended at the Minnesota-based reservation call center. Starting Thursday, operators will assist callers from 10 a.m. to midnight. From Friday, March 23 to April 2, call center hours are 8 a.m. to midnight.
From April 3 to Oct. 31, calls will be taken 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily (except holidays).
"We hope this phased-in roll-out of the new reservation service will allow us to work through the backlog that currently exists in an orderly way to ensure the best possible customer experience," said Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR's Parks and Trails Division. "Everyone will have a fair shot at the campsites and cabins that are still available."
Customers who are not making a reservation for arrival prior to May 12 are asked to wait until this weekend to log into the system. That will help reduce a potential overload of the system during its first two days.
The DNR has been working closely with the new reservation system vendor, US eDirect, to resolve the capacity problems with the online system.
"Clearly, Minnesotans love their state parks, and we know they are eager to make their reservations," said Tony Alex of US eDirect. "We regret the delays that have been caused and we hope customers will like the new reservation service once it's up and running."
The DNR recently took the additional precaution of asking the Office of Enterprise Technology (OET), the state agency that oversees all state technology, to confirm the reservation site's readiness.
Nevertheless, the DNR is bracing for peak demand for the reservation system during its first few hours of operation. Customers making telephone reservations may be put on hold. If online traffic exceeds capacity, website visitors will get a message suggesting they try back later.
Customers can help by doing their own research and by being prepared. They can visit the DNR's website to check availability for campsites and lodging through the spring and summer. They should also have a campground map handy if their first site choice is unavailable and they want to pick an alternative.
A link to the DNR's camping and lodging availability report is available at mndnr.gov. The same is true for online maps of campgrounds and sites. All parks are listed alphabetically or by region on the DNR's state-park web pages, available at mndnr.gov.
Reservations made last year, using the previous reservation system, have been transferred to the new system and will be honored in 2012. Customers who wish to confirm, modify or cancel existing reservations can do so when the reservation service launches, but they are advised to wait, if possible, until the weekend.
The new centralized reservation system is a "customer paid" service. US eDirect provides the reservation service in exchange for being able to collect reservation fees.