Nfld. & Labrador

Campgrounds opening up, but with a catch: no tents allowed for now

People can get a breath of fresh air as private campgrounds in the province reopen, but they have to have an RV or stay in a cabin to do so.

Private, municipal and provincial campsites allowed at Alert Level 3

Notre Dame Provincial Park will re-open to day use on Friday, with overnight RV camping allowed on June 19. (Submitted by Jeff Cluett)

Campers itching to get out and enjoy some fresh Newfoundland and Labrador air at their favourite campground can do so this coming weekend, with one big catch: they'll need to have an RV or a cabin to do it.

The arrival of Alert Level 3 on Monday allowed private, municipal and provincial campgrounds to open up, although as with other sectors that have come back to life this week, that opening is subject to numerous public health restrictions.

Chief among those is limiting overnight camping to what the provincial government terms "self-contained units," such as RVs or cabins that must be equipped with a water supply and washroom. Public showers, playgrounds and communal kitchen areas are off limits.

The delayed start to the season is better than none at all to private campgrounds like Fitzgerald's Pond Park, near Placentia. 

"Normally, I'd be open the weekend before May 2-4," Dave Bartlett said. 

"That revenue is pretty well chewed up. In reality, it's better than not being open at all for the season. Even if I can get back 50 per cent of the revenue, it's a plus."

Tenting will be allowed at Alert Level 2. Public health officials have not set a date at which to move to that level, with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald saying Monday that such a change would be at least two, if not three, weeks away.

Campers using beaches, like this one at Bellevue Beach Campground in Trinity Bay, will need to abide by physical distancing measures this year. (Submitted by Maxine Anderson)

Bartlett looks forward to welcoming that contingent of campers back — and their revenue.

"There is a lot of tenters who enjoy tenting, of course, and do not have an RV. And I get a good bit of business from tenters," he told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

Campers 'anxious' to return

Bartlett's new reality has been measuring the distance between RV units — Alert Level 3 mandates they must be spaced at least 30 feet apart — and mothballing comfort stations and his playground.

"People will just have to get used to the new normal for now, and ease into it," he said.

It appears the restrictions aren't keeping away his regular clientele, said Bartlett.

"A lot of people are of course very anxious to get back," he said.

While private operators are up and running, provincially run campsites will start up a bit later, in two phases: first opening up campgrounds and parks for day use on June 12, with overnight RV camping allowed as of June 19. 

Reservations for camping at those parks is available as of Thursday.

People wanting to camp in national park campgrounds, like Green Point in Gros Morne National Park seen here, will have to wait until a further announcement from Parks Canada. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

Terra Nova and Gros Morne National Parks remain closed to camping, although some trails and day-use areas are now in operation. Parks Canada said its campgrounds will remain closed until at least June 21.

The base camp and research station at Torngat Mountains National Park are closed for the 2020 season.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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