Windsor

Campers, campgrounds prepare themselves for a busy summer

Campgrounds open on Friday for overnight visitors as part of Ontario's phase one reopening plan. While public health limitations are in place, both staff and campers are eager for the season.

Phase one of reopening plan starts Friday, allowing for the camping season to begin

Kory Renaud, from Amherstburg, is planning a week-long camping trip with his family next weekend. They plan to stay in three different campgrounds. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Ontario enters phase one of its reopening plan as of Friday and among the list of eased restrictions is campgrounds. 

All provincial and private campgrounds are allowed to open, and based on the high demand for bookings it is highly anticipated. 

"We can't wait. The kids have been, you know, trying to pack their things for the last two weeks. Everybody's anxious in this house," said Kory Renaud.

Step One of Ontario's Roadmap to Reopen plan allows for changes such as larger outdoor gatherings, patio dining with up to four people and non-essential retail to open at 15 per cent capacity. Outdoor religious services with higher capacity, group exercise and day camps for children can also begin, with limitations and health measures in place.

Ontario Parks will allow for overnight stays on campground and backcountry campsites, as well as in roofed accommodations including cabins, yurts and cottages. 

High demand

This is good news for Kory Renaud and his family. 

The Renaud family, based in Amherstburg, runs a social media group called Camping Across Ontario. The family has a goal of visiting every provincial campground in the province. They have been documenting their camping excursions, sharing tips and tricks for new campers through videos on YouTube, Instagram and blogs.

"It's really to inspire others to do it," said Renaud.

Point Pelee National Park opens its campgrounds on Friday. The 24 campsites are booked but staff encourage interested campers to check back in for cancellations. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Over the last two years, Renaud has noticed a surge in interest, which has become clear by the number of booked up campsites.

"It was definitely a little bit of a challenge booking our sites this year," said Renaud. "A lot more demand over the last two years for camping. A lot more people are exploring and checking out camping for the first time." 

Renaud said he and his family began booking campsites online the first day the sites allowed for it. He said they used multiple computers beginning at 7 a.m. to book the sites. 

Renaud and his family are planning to visit three campgrounds in the North Bay region as their first trip. They will be gone for a week. 

Eerie without campers

The staff at Point Pelee National Park are eager for campers to arrive.

Kristi Chauvin, a visitor services team leader at Point Pelee, said it has been eerie without campers. 

"When you're leaving at the end of the day and you don't smell bonfire and you don't hear the laughing and the light guitar strumming," said Chauvin. "It's a very strange feeling." 

She said she looks forward to campers bringing the life back. 

Kristi Chauvin, a staff member at Point Pelee National Park is excited for campers to fill the campgrounds beginning Friday, June 11. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"There's something about this year that, everyone is so happy to be here and get out and enjoy nature," she said.

"It's next-level excitement to be at the park." 

While staff have been making last-minute preparations, such as cleaning, sweeping the sites and shining up the barbecues, public health rules have been put in place. 

Visitors are required to wear a mask in all indoors spaces, such as the office, and maintain their social distance. The office and store on the campgrounds are only permitted to allow one group at a time. 

The 24 campsites are sold out, but Chauvin said that shouldn't stop anybody from trying to grab a spot.

"We do see a lot of cancellations and campsites will open up and get scooped up really quickly so we always give that advice to check back often."

Ontario Parks has released a couple of warnings to campers regarding lineups and check-in delays. It has also said COVID-19 measures do continue to apply, and some of its operations may be offline for the time being.

With files by Jacob Barker

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