While we’re knee-deep in winter, it’s not necessarily too early to look ahead to summer. The Telluride Parks & Recreation Commission discussed several 2023 Telluride Town Park Campground changes during its regular meeting Wednesday afternoon. For the record, commission chair Teddy Errico made it a point to start the meeting by expressing his gratitude to everyone who participated in the meeting despite it being a powder day.

Town parks and recreation director Stephanie Jaquet presented the pending campground policy changes to the commission.

“On an annual basis, parks and rec staff evaluate the campground policies, including our rules, our regulations and our reservation system. And we're constantly making incremental changes to respond to camper feedback, high demand for limited resource and general operations. This is the first time that we've come to you with a broad update. This is not an action item. We're not necessarily looking for direction here. We just want you to be in in the loop on what is changing, because there are some pretty large changes. But we have reasons to back that up,” she said. “This is very much a team effort from the parks and rec staff led by Linda Wanlass. … She's our administrative assistant. Her main responsibility in the summer, in addition to a lot of things, is the campground and the front office peak reservation piece and the staff who is in the Unruh house or info center now on a year-round basis. So she's brought a lot of these recommendations and has talked to our full team about it.”

The tentative dates for the campground this year are May 12 to Oct. 9, while the biggest changes center around a new online reservation system, rate increases and length-of-stay limits.

“I would just say our main challenges in 2023 are high demand for limited resource, software that was not adequate for the user experience or for the administrative side of it, and then just cancellations. No shows continue to be a challenge as well. So those are the three big issues that we're trying to address in our recommendations for 2023,” Jaquet explained. “ … You all took action in August on increased fees and the new fee structure in general. … Right now we're looking at probably a 13 percent projected revenue increase over year 2022, based on these new rates.”

The new 2023 campground rates range from $3.33 (11 percent increase) for a five-minute shower to $46 (30 percent increase) for a premium vehicle site (non-senior), according to a staff memo.

Campers will also be limited to 14 days total for the entire season.

“To allow more campers to experience the campground throughout the season,

staff is implementing a 14-day maximum stay per individual during the entire

season, in addition to the existing 7-day maximum in a 30-day period,” the memo read.

Jacquet added that a two-week maximum would still allow people to enjoy some long weekends, including festivals, throughout the season.

“We're proposing a maximum stay per individual for the entire season, so that people aren't camping with us seven days every month, which could equate to 35 days total, roughly,” she said. “We're proposing a 14-day maximum in the entire season. And that could allow a few long weekends for locals who do use our campground. It could be for people who come ahead of festivals, and they come for two different festivals, that would accommodate that as well. So that is a change. And once again, the goal there is to increase availability, because we know that demand is incredibly high for a limited resource.”

Fine tuning the online reservation system, which was first implemented during the pandemic and replaced the longtime first-come-first-served policy, is also part of the department’s 2023 plans, including using new campground-specific software called Campspot.

“I'd say overall, it's well received. But we do get the feedback of people wanting to be a little more last minute and not know their plan several months in advance. But, generally speaking, the reservations are here to stay. We are looking at improving it to address staff and customer feedback,” Jacquet said, adding there is always a “frenzy” at the beginning of the season when reservations go live.

She clarified that the department is still determining when 2023 reservations will open and also discussing a rolling reservation system that allows people to book dates within a certain timeframe.

“We are continuing to tell the public we do not know when reservations are opening because we do not know when reservations are opening, not that we're hiding the information. … But it'll probably be later than March 1. But people are checking every day they can like there's going to be an answer. We don't have an answer. But what we're proposing is that you can only make a reservation a certain amount of time in advance of the month that you're arriving. So what we are currently at is approximately 60 days in advance of your arrival,” Jaquet said. “So theoretically, April 1, you would be able to reserve for June. And that's any stay dates within June. So your arrival date is June 30, you can potentially book it April 1. We're still working on the actual dates but a general 60-day window. If your reservation crosses months, it would be tied to the first day of your arrival. So if you arrived June 30 and staying until July 4, you would be able to book in April, given this example. So we're really hoping that the opening day frenzy gets spread out onto multiple days, which apart doesn't sound great to me but the volume would be lower.”