By Shelagh McNally.
As we gradually come out of Covid-quarantine with vacation plans drastically changed, camping remains one of the safest summer activities. Experts agree that the rate of infection is drastically reduced when the virus has to deal with wind or heat. Social distancing is still necessary though but while a crowded urban park may be problematic, isolated camping with only family members is a low-risk scenario.
Parks are slowly opening, with Ontario Parks following the province’s lead on the gradual increase for social gatherings. You’ll see activities and facilities aligned with the Stage 2 roll-out for each region.
So, what’s the current status of camping in Ontario?
The majority of back-country campsites are now opened with few restrictions and a modified check-in procedure. Anyone with a reservation for back-country camping will be emailed a confirmation letter. This serves as your camping permit so be sure to have a hard copy with you when you arrive to check in. But remember sharing a tent with someone not from your household cancels out the low risk.
Most beaches opened on June 12 and on June 15, campers enrolled in the 2020 Seasonal Campsite Program, were given access to their reserved sites, again with some restrictions. If you have reservations but your park remains closed, your date is automatically cancelled, and a full refund is issued with no penalty. You won’t need to contact Ontario Parks to receive the refund.
After June 22, there will be the gradual opening of remaining campgrounds and facilities but with some important changes. Washrooms, drinking water and trailer sanitation stations are opened immediately. Open-roofed accommodations, park stores, visitor centers, playgrounds and sports fields will gradually start to open based on the scheduled roll-out in the area. All swimming pools, laundry, showers, picnic shelter rentals and group camping areas in all parks throughout the province remain closed for the entire season.
Ontario Parks will also be monitoring overcrowding to ensure physical distancing is maintained. Expect popular parks with day-use visitations to be limited including a restriction on the number of daily vehicle permits issued. Busy parks, in particular Algonquin, Killbear, Pinery, Sandbanks and Bon Echo, will see a drastic reduction in accessibility. Don’t assume there is space available because there are empty parking spots or empty camping sites.
Ontario Parks also recommends checking the status of each park through its main website. On the main menu, select the PARKS option and scroll down to find your particular park for the Facilities and Activities available. You’ll see the following colour scheme on each park’s page:
– Blue: Open/available with no restrictions. Check operating date
– Grey: Closed/Not available
– Red: Temporarily unavailable. Check back
– Purple: Available but with restrictions. Check operating date and click icon for more info.
With a reduced staff, Ontario Parks is also asking people to help out with keeping the parks clean and take their trash home when possible. The final caution from Ontario Parks is that all this may change again if Provincial medical officers recommend adjustments or changes based on what is happening with the pandemic.
For more information visit https://www.ontarioparks.com/covid19