Document Type


Publication Title

Journal of Park and Recreation Administration


Sagamore Publishing

Publication Date

Winter 2022






Campsites represent highly-sought-after recreational amenities in the national parks of the United States. Equitable allocation of scarce recreational resources has long been a key management issue in U.S. national parks, but has become increasingly difficult in an era of increasing demand. At present, a growing number of national park campsites are allocated through an online reservation system well-in-advance of a camper’s arrival at a park. Compounding the challenge of allocating these campsites is a long history of exclusivity within national park camping—institutionalized through campground design and predicated on a legacy of the leisure class’s affinity for camping in national parks. Given national park camping’s history of exclusivity, this exploratory study seeks to explore how online reservation systems may impact the demographics of national park campers. Using mobile device location data, estimated demographics were calculated for campers in five national park campgrounds in the U.S. that each contained some sites requiring reservations and some sites available on a first come, first served basis. We detail results from analyses of variance between campsites requiring reservations and those that are available on a first come, first served basis. Results suggest that for each of the five campgrounds, those campers camping in sites that require reservations came from areas with higher median household incomes, on average. In three of the five campgrounds, this difference was significant. Additionally, in an urban-proximate setting, those camping in sites requiring reservations came from areas with a higher portion of White residency than those campers in campsites not requiring reservations, on average. We conclude with discussion that includes a brief research agenda for campgrounds and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and management implications concerning the growing prominence of online reservation systems for outdoor recreation amenities. Principally, the latter group of implications includes the realization that online reservation systems present the unintended consequence of excluding low-income, and perhaps non-White, would-be campers—a conclusion drawn from the results of this exploratory study. This discussion includes an analysis of the distributive justice of online reservation systems.


Campgrounds, equity, allocation, reservations, exclusion, mobile device data



© 2022 Sagamore Publishing LLC

Available for download on Saturday, March 18, 2023