It wasn't exactly a Christmas present to thousands of patrons of the state's online park reservations system.
A state parks email list had to be shut down on Christmas Eve after a technical error flooded users' inboxes with hundreds of messages from other users. The list is made up of people who've used the state's online reservation system for park accommodations.
State parks officials say the email list includes about 47,000 patrons. It was only the second time the list had been used.
On Friday, NC Parks director Lewis Ledford sent out a general holiday message to the list, thanking members for using the system, and promoting a new mobile app for state parks.
Ledford's message drew an angry late-night response from one user who complained about the gas tax, set to rise about 4 cents January 1st.
"Raising gas tax is just plain stupid. Everything is bad enought without adding to the problem. I can bearly afford the gas now, I have cut my driving down quite abit and there is no need to send me any more informatioin on state parks. I will not be traveling or camping, with the increase of fuel cost. The cost of fuel is bad enough without north carolina adding more tax to fuel."
After complaining about police and rangers driving new cars, he concludes,
"Stupid dumb taxes...you know where you can put them.....up yours.....I dont need any information about state parks...save you email....."
The angry response went out to every member of the list. So did a similarly angry counter-response from a supporter of the gas tax hike. And so did hundreds of frustrated requests from people who wanted to be removed from the list altogether.
Most email list systems don't allow members to send messages to the list without moderator approval. But in this case, that safeguard had either been turned off or was never put in place.
By the time the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources got wind of the problem Saturday morning, members' inboxes were stuffed with about 500 messages, leading some to believe the system had been hacked.
"There were people who found this so disturbing, they were calling state emergency management about it," said DENR spokeswoman Diana Kees.
Kees said the list was shut down Saturday afternoon. But some backed-up messages are still finding their way to users' inboxes.
"We are looking into how the problem occurred in the first place, so that we can take measures to assure it never happens again. We sincerely regret the inconvenience," Kees said.
"We regret and apologize for any inconveniences and problems this created for our valued park visitors," added state parks assistant director Don Reuter. "We will thoroughly evaluate the issues this year's holiday message created and make decisions about future use based upon that evaluation."