By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

State parks will be implementing an online reservation system by the first of the year.

It will look a lot like the current system for renting cabins at state parks, but it will be automated. Cabin reservations now are conducted behind the scenes by personnel at the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks in Pratt, according to Troy Brown, regional parks manager for KDWP.

And it should be a lot simpler, he said.

There's plenty of work still to be done on the system, but progress is being made and the agency is targeting Jan. 1 to implement the system.

"Our campground reservation system is going to make our cabin system look small," he said.

KDWP has agreed to hire a private company to handle its reservations systems, much like is done in Nebraska and Colorado, for example. Both states allow campground reservations to be handled by Reserve America, part of the active.com network. The reservation system is nearly transparent, as Reserve America's Kansas site will be on KDWP's website.

"We're a little behind," Brown said of online reservations.

There are still plenty of details to be worked out, he said, and that's why the Jan. 1 schedule is tentative.

It will be something of a change for park users, who long have been known to go out to state parks a week or more in advance -- especially during big camping weekends -- and simply park their camper where they want to stay.

That won't be necessary any more, or allowed.

Instead, campers will be able to go online and reserve a campsite -- at least those with utilities.

There is talk about Kansas operating a call center, much like they do in Nebraska, for people who either can't or don't want to use the online system to reserve a spot.

That, however, remains up in the air.

"I'm really worried about people who don't want to do a reservation online," Brown said, adding that the call center would allow reservations to be made over the phone.

Initially, only about half of the utility site will be reservable.

Eventually, Brown said, all of them would be listed and could be reserved.

Likely, there's not going to be a reservation system for sites without utilities.

That's because few of those sites have designated boundaries, he said.