PEI

P.E.I. National Park preparing for surge of visitors in 2017 due to free entry

Parks Canada is preparing for a surge in visits to P.E.I. National Park this year, when admission is free — and is suggesting locals do the same when planning their summer park visits.

'Plan in advance. We definitely want people to come off-peak hours'

Parks Canada Discovery Pass is free for 2017 to mark the 150th anniversary of confederation. (Parks Canada)

Parks Canada is preparing for a surge in visits to P.E.I. National Park this year, when admission is free — and is suggesting locals do the same when planning their summer park visits.

"It's difficult to estimate really what the impact will be on visitation but certainly Parks Canada has a lot of tools at its disposal that we're able to manage an increase in visitation if that happens," said Janette Gallant, promotions office for Parks Canada on P.E.I.

Parks Canada staff are handling phone calls and walk-in customers seeking free passes. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Islanders are already dropping into the Park Canada's headquarters in Charlottetown to pick up a free Discovery Pass.

The pass, which cost $136.40 in 2016, allows families admission to all national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas.

Important to Islanders, it lets them onto all P.E.I. National Park beaches for free.

'Plan in advance'

And to deal with the expected surge in visits, staff on P.E.I. are encouraging visitors to plan ahead to avoid possible problems, such as crowds or parking shortages.

"Plan in advance. We definitely want people to come off-peak hours," said Gallant. "So think about coming when lots of people aren't there, early mornings, late afternoons. And to come to our lesser visited sites, places like Greenwich."

Janette Gallant of Parks Canada says everyone who wants a free pass will get one. (Brian Higgins/CBC)
 

Camping reservations open early

Staff at P.E.I. National Park will also start taking camping reservations earlier this year, in anticipation of high demand.

They'll begin taking reservations Jan. 23. Normally, they open in April.

Parks Canada continues to charge normal fees for other services, such as camping and firewood.

Staff advise visitors to plan ahead, arrive during off-peak hours, and seek out less crowded areas of P.E.I. National Park. (CBC)

The free passes are also available online through Parks Canada, but staff won't turn any visitors away during 2017, according to Gallant.

"If someone comes to the gate without a Discovery Pass, we'll just give them one," she said.

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