What camping in Sask. will look like under the reopening plan
All laundry, shower, rental and recreational services must be closed
Saskatchewan residents will soon get to trade in being stuck at home for being in the great outdoors. Campgrounds are permitted to open to the public in June, as part of the province's reopening plan announced Thursday.
The decision comes as the province sees a decline in COVID-19 cases, but campers and campgrounds must still abide by a list of rules as the restrictions lift.
Becky Ferguson, park manager of Mainprize Regional Park and Golf Course in Midale, Sask. — located 45 kilometres southeast of Weyburn — said she was surprised by the province's decision.
"I actually got pretty excited that we're getting that far this quickly. As a manager I love to see the campers all come back," Ferguson said.
National parks will remain closed until at least May 31.
The online reservation system for campsites in Saskatchewan provincial parks will open on May 4 as part of Phase 1 of the reopening plan, but only Saskatchewan residents will be permitted to camp or visit the parks.
Gene Makowsky, the province's minister of parks, culture and sport, says campers will be asked to provide proof of residence when making reservations. He said the province is still working out the details on how that proof will be provided through the reservation system.
He says he understands campers might have questions that aren't answered in the province's reopening plan.
"There's always questions that don't fall exactly into guidelines. As they come up, we'll try and answer some of these grey areas," said Makowsky.
"We're looking forward to camping season, although it will be quite a bit different than a normal year opening here in Saskatchewan."
Many people own cabins located within provincial parks, and some of those owners live in other provinces, Makowsky noted.
But he said that under the province's public health order, released April 17, those out-of-province residents will not be denied access to properties that they own located in provincial parks or privately operated campgrounds.
As of June 1, long-term seasonal, overnight stay and limited-term campers will be permitted on all campgrounds, but campers must have their reservations accepted in advance.
Campgrounds must operate at 50 per cent capacity and may not rent out adjacent sites at the same time. Also, group campsites or reservations will not be allowed and double sites cannot be booked.
Campground amenities will be bare bones for the foreseeable future. All shower and laundry facilities must be closed to the public and washroom access will be limited to one household at a time. The province encourages campers to use washrooms in their trailers or campers.
Food services and rentals, including yurts, will not be allowed, so campers should be prepared to bring their own tents, items and any equipment they wish to use.
Taking it slow
Ferguson said Mainprize Regional Park will have no problem following the province's guidelines.
"Anything is OK with me right now. Saskatchewan has been doing really good with keeping everything to a decent level, so we've got to keep it that way so we will do what we can to keep it that way," said Ferguson.
"You rush it too fast and that's when things start to happen. So we're just going to take it slow."
Ferguson said she is planning to use half the staff she normally does.
Recreational facilities like beach access, picnic areas, playgrounds and tennis courts must be closed, according to the province's reopening rules. Ferguson says Mainprize already has signs up indicating that its beaches are closed.
Campsites may allow boats to launch, as long as campers are observing physical distancing rules.
Ferguson said that while she is happy campgrounds can open soon, she does not expect to be busy right away.
"Lots of people themselves don't really want to rush into it. So they're not going to just flock out here fast. They're going to take their time, stay at home [and] only do the necessities anyway. So we'll be pretty quiet."
Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province's chief medical health officer, says that people still shouldn't plan to make long trips within the province, despite the reopening of campgrounds and parks.
"In the future, there'll be the opportunity to go golfing, go for hiking or cycling provincial parks and camping.... [But] it is important to stay as close to home as you can."