Edmonton

More happy campers: Alberta campgrounds begin releasing sites in return to full capacity

Good news for tent campers, trailer adventurers and backcountry explorers keen to snag a spot around the campfire.

Some sites came up for grabs Thursday

Alberta's summer camping season has been delayed and restricted by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Wallis Snowdon/CBC)

Good news for tent campers, trailer adventurers and backcountry explorers keen to snag a spot in one of Alberta's provincial campgrounds.

With health restrictions that had kept Alberta's provincial campgrounds operating at 50 per cent capacity being lifted, the first wave of previously blocked sites came up for grabs on Thursday.         

The return of Alberta provincial campgrounds to 100 per cent capacity was among the many pieces of the Stage 2 relaunch strategy announced by Premier Jason Kenney earlier this week. 

The availability of the campsites was announced by Alberta Parks on Twitter on Thursday afternoon.

The sites will be made available "in phases" and would-be campers are encouraged to keep checking the reservation website for their campground of choice, Alberta Parks said. 

Some campgrounds will be operating at full capacity as early as Friday but officials are still working out the "operational details." 

The new onslaught of camping spots comes one day before the next phase of the government's economic relaunch plan is set to begin.

Provincial campgrounds were just among the dozens of business and services included Stage 2, which will see many Albertans carefully emerging from isolation and embracing new freedoms this weekend. 

COVID-19 took a toll on the spring camping season this year.

Provincial parks began the season behind schedule and operating at 50 per cent occupancy. The cap on bookings was intended to encourage physical distancing and reduce the number of campers using trails and shared facilities at the peak of the pandemic.

Camping reservations were cancelled by random selection and bookings were shuffled to accommodate the health directives. Reservations were closed to out-of-province campers. Group camping areas and comfort camping sites, including yurts and cabins, were shut down for the season. 

The rush to get the select sites still available overwhelmed the provincial website, causing it to repeatedly crash and the ministry's social media staff to plead with frustrated users for patience.

The site appeared to be working well on Thursday afternoon with many of the coveted sites already filling up. 

Some national parks have reopened for partial day use earlier this month but are expected to remain closed to camping until at least June 21. Ottawa will assess whether camping should resume at that point.

 

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