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Luann Ridgeway: Online Campsite Reservations for Clay County Parks

Clay County Eastern District Commissioner Luann Ridgway
Clay County Eastern District Commissioner Luann Ridgway

Former State Senator Luann Ridgeway currently serves as the Eastern District Commissioner on the Clay County, Missouri Commission. This is her June 5th newsletter. In it she discusses the recent addition of an online reservation system for Clay County, MO Parks. This is cross-posted in both our Opinion Section and the general news feed of the site.

On April 7, 2015 our Clay County Parks scored a “first” for our county that is paying big dividends. For the first time in the history of Clay County customers can make on-line reservations to secure a campsite in advance. The reservation system is available 24-7. It brings us up to date with other parks and is as simple as any other credit card reservation system commonly used by major hotels.

Why should you care about this even if you don’t camp? Because every dollar that our Clay County parks, historic sites and campgrounds make from tourists is one less tax dollar of your hard earned money that is needed to support and maintain them. Plus, new visitors mean more people to spend money in our county at private businesses and more non-tax dollars to support all public services.

Here are some facts to show you how successful the reservation system has been:
On the first day the on-line system was launched, $27,000 in reservations was collected. Within just 10 days, that amount nearly doubled to $48,000.

Last year, it took until mid-May for our campsites to reach only $33,000 in sales. By comparison, by mid-May this year, the online reservation system had exceeded sales of $100,000.

Thus, we have nearly tripled our campsite income from this time last year. The reservation system has already far more than paid for itself.

And there’s more good news. When I spoke to our park’s office staff, they estimated that approximately half of those using the online reservation system were new, first-time customers to our parks.

It is understandable why online reservations were needed at our parks and why I have been working toward getting them for the past two years. No one wants to drive for hours and take the chance that a campsite isn’t available after many miles on the road. It’s only a matter of common-sense that campers of all ages prefer to know they have a reservation secured.

The reservation system is just one update we are making. Our electrical service to our campsites has not been improved in over 30 years, even though RV’s continue to grow in size and amperage requirements. That improvement is scheduled to begin this fall.

All improvements, too numerous to mention here, increase our quality of life and make Clay County known as a place of accessible natural beauty, and secure family fun. Every economic developer knows that “quality of life” is a factor that can make or break our ability to keep good jobs and attract new ones.

Clay County is going to grow. The question remains: How will we grow? As we improve our parks and other public services and amenities, Clay County will grow its image as home of the highest quality of life in the region.

We already have great schools; excellent jobs; major rail, road and air transportation for people and products. We have hiking, biking, horseback riding, mountain biking trails in our county and cities that are second to none. Plus I must give my thanks to the many volunteers who work diligently to maintain our many miles of trails. They give freely of their time, talent and resources, all at no cost to the taxpayers. For example, the Earth Riders clear and maintain miles of mountain bike trails and the Kearney Saddle Club and others donate hours to clear, mow and repair many miles of equestrian and wilderness hiking trails. I’m sure there are others, but all volunteers deserve a big “Thank You” for volunteering their time due to their passion for their sport and love of our parks and outdoors.

As your elected Commissioner, it is part of my oversight responsibility to ensure that we are good stewards of both your tax money and to make the best of our county assets.

As the old poem goes, we still have “miles to go before we sleep” but for now I’m happy to report to you that we are moving forward with our eyes wide open looking into a bright and better future.

I’m always open to your comments about how to not only make our county better, but a place where “best” is common and “excellence” is expected.

About Andrew Palmer