National Recreation Reservation Service makes its site user friendly

The Agriculture Department and the Army Corps of Engineers this month launched a redesigned National Recreation Reservation Service Web site.

Before, the site, at www.ReserveUSA.com, was not intuitive for users trying to reserve campsites at parks nationwide, said Lynne R. Beeson, NRRS' interagency program manager.

Over the past year, ReserveAmerica Inc. of Milton, Ontario, USDA's Forest Service and the Army Corps of Engineers have been trying to create a more user-friendly reservations site.

The online reservations service is popular; it accounted for 49 percent of all NRRS advanced reservations during a week in December, Beeson said.

The new site features a simpler user interface and navigation bars that are more consistent across the home page and subsequent pages, she said.

ReserveAmerica built a new search engine using Java technology. It lets users specify the dates they want to travel and check availability at multiple campgrounds.

'The site includes matrices that show campgrounds and facilities with appropriate availability,' Beeson said.

Under the old format, a user could not check the availability for an entire campground or within a geographic area. The redesign gives users two parallel paths, one where they can check specific campgrounds and another where they can select locations from a map. Formerly, a user had to make selections at individual campsites.

Let's go here

The other path relies on maps. Mapping software developed by MapInfo Corp. of Troy, N.Y., lets a user click a location on a map and make reservations quickly. 'The process has been greatly streamlined,' Beeson said.

But the site does little for users looking for information about other park activities. At the moment, if users want to go hiking, they must visit www.recreation.gov to find parks with both hiking and camping options and then go to www.ReserveUSA.gov to make the reservations.

Eventually, the sites will be linked through the Recreation OneStop Quicksilver project to provide a single portal to government-run recreational services.

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