Alberta Parks told campers on Monday its reservation site would be up and running soon — days later, the reservation portal was still glitchy.
After a prolonged outage that lasted more than five days, the Alberta Parks reservation system was back up and running Friday — though not completely fixed. Government IT staff were still trying to diagnose what caused the outage.
The site was fully unavailable between Monday evening and Thursday morning.
On Thursday, the site was relaunched. But many experienced more problems: slow loading, crashing, issues selecting and reserving campsites.
According to Alberta Environment and Parks spokesperson Paul Hamnett, four per cent of transactions had another issue: customers getting charged for a site without securing that reservation.
This problem hit Serge Paquette and his wife. Without realizing it, they'd racked up thousands of dollars on each of their credit cards with nothing to show for it.
Maxed out credit cards with no reservations to show
"I didn't check my credit card while I was doing it because I was busy trying to get it done," Paquette said. "It actually did charge the credit card like 20 times. I think it was in the $18,000 range."
The charges were worrisome. Paquette said trying to get answers from Alberta Parks was tough, too. At first, parks said the return could take seven days to process. Thankfully, the cash showed up on Friday morning, so his cards were no longer maxed out.
Alberta Parks apologizes
Hamnett said anyone else charged mistakenly can call 1-877-537-2757 for a full refund and stay on the line for help booking a site.
On Friday, the site was relaunched with a queue system, so that IT could continue to fix the page without straining the system.
Hamnett said that as of 2:30 p.m., more than 2,700 reservations had gone through successfully.
"We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused and we thank Albertans for their patience while work is done to address the problem with the site," he wrote in an email. "We will continue to update the public on Alberta Parks' social media channels."
As of Friday afternoon, Paquette still hadn't secured a spot. At this point, he's considering alternative plans.
"I grew up in Alberta. I've been going to these campsites for 30 years," Paquette said. "It's a tradition, and this year it's a bit of a lifeline, so we're disappointed."
The Alberta Parks booking system has become a barrier over the past number of years, buckling under the pressure as interested campers flock to the website.
Campers say something needs to change
Some, like Matthew Stevenson, say issues have become part of the planning process: deciding on a date, site, loop — and budgeting time for the web page to glitch.
"I got my campsite, but it took me probably five times longer than it should have," Stevenson said. "I wasted a lot of time."
Whether it's better communication, planning or upgrading the provincial site, the campers CBC spoke with said something needs to change.
"I'm not trying to point fingers, but, you know, I need to see some accountability and some progress on this moving forward," Paquette said. "These are beautiful places, you know? And I think we just need to find a way to make them accessible."