Sask. provincial parks will have COVID-19 cleaning protocols, but expert reminds to take precautions
Sask. Parks said there will be enhanced cleaning at all shared facilities — including showers and bathrooms
People can start booking their campsites throughout Saskatchewan next week, but it will look different than the 2020 season.
All sites will be open to book, instead of the half capacity from last year, and all facilities will be open with enhanced COVID-19 cleaning protocols.
"We saw an influx of people last year, which was wonderful. I think the pandemic has resulted in people taking a keener interest in the outdoors and we personally love that," Robin Campese, executive director of visitor experiences with Sask. Parks, told CBC Saskatchewan's The Morning Edition.
"It's a place where people can sort of get a break mentally and physically from the pandemic and just breathe the fresh air and we're happy to be that place for campers this summer."
Sask. Parks also has new camp-easy sites opening in Douglas Park and Duck Mountain and a new reservation site. On the new site people can give e-gift cards and do last minute bookings by seeing what spots are open that upcoming weekend.
Campese said another change this year is that out-of-province people can reserve sites at provincial parks. In 2020, bookings were limited to Saskatchewan residents only.
"So we just want our out-of-province campers to be aware of the restrictions and that they could change so that they need to just know that when they're reserving their campsite and overall, Sask. Parks will be following all the public health guidelines and orders in place."
Expert warns to still be cautious, even at the provincial parks
While people may be excited to rush outdoors, Joseph Blondeau is cautioning them that it's important to still take heed and follow COVID-19 protocols. Blondeau is head of clinical microbiology at Royal University Hospital.
"If you're camping with folks within your own bubble, so let's just say your family members, then I think that you're fine," Blondeau said on Blue Sky.
"If you're going to encounter folks on your camping trip that are outside of your bubble and to which you're going to be in close proximity to, then you have to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself," he said.
Blondeau said it's still important to wash your hands and wear a mask when using communal facilities like bathrooms, even with the extra cleaning, because you don't know who was there last and how long ago.
"But I think that we have to ask the campgrounds what they're going to do in order to maintain their facilities."
Sask. Parks said the health and safety of Saskatchewan residents, park users and employees is its priority. In a statement, Sask. Parks said it is following the public health experts' advice, and measures from the federal and provincial governments.
Shared facilities such as showers and washrooms will have signs, distance markers and enhanced cleaning. Sask. Parks said cleaning will happen daily, and in most cases multiple times a day.
"Saskatchewan Parks has the staff, cleaning protocols and safety procedures in place to support the 2021 camping season," the statement said.
Visitors are encouraged to bring hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes, and to use the auto check-in process to reduce in-person contact when arriving at parks.
With files from The Morning Edition and Blue Sky