Local camps hope to fully reopen this summer

·3 min read

Some area campgrounds are hoping to fully reopen this season once the provincial restrictions are lifted.

While attending an overnight vaccine clinic on Sunday, Premier Doug Ford said summer camps would be allowed to operate this summer but didn’t provide any details, according to the Canadian Press report.

Under the provincial stay-at-home order, campsites are currently available for trailers and recreational vehicles that are used by people in need of housing or by seasonal campers who have a full season contract.

Only campsites with electricity, water services and facilities for sewage disposal may be provided, according to the province. All recreational facilities and all other shared facilities in the campground, except for washrooms and showers, must be closed.

“Other areas of the campground must be closed to the general public (may only be opened for preparing the seasonal campground for reopening),” reads the order.

Tania Bartlett, the owner of Cameron’s Beach Campground in Iroquois Falls, said she’s hoping the provincial government will realize camping is one of the safest activities during the pandemic and will allow them to reopen for the mental health of adults and children.

She said her camp, which has about 100 seasonal sites, is losing revenue because it can’t be open for rentals and overnighters.

“I’m thinking we’ll be able to reopen (this summer),” she said. “We were able to last summer, you just have all of your policies in place,” she said. “Right now, our seasonals have to fill out the COVID code of conduct. It’ll be the same when they’re allowed to have visitors, they will also have to do the COVID screening, so we can do contact tracing.”

Overnight stays at Ontario Parks continue to be closed including campgrounds, backcountry campsites and roofed accommodations until at least June 2 when the stay-at-home order is set to expire.

Recreational camping on Crown (public) lands and overnight accommodation is currently prohibited under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. There are exceptions to this prohibition which can be viewed here.

Last year, the province prohibited overnight summer camps but day camps were open.

The stay-at-home order also requires people travelling to another residence to stay there for less than 24 hours or for at least 14 days.

J.C. Santos, who operates WildExodus, said last summer they lost over 50 per cent in revenue and he expects this season will be no different from last summer.

The campground is currently accessible for seasonal campers, Santos said.

“We're waiting for June 4 to be able to open fully to the public. But even then, there will be excessive restrictions which means we can’t operate at full capacity,” he said. “Right now, there’s a fine line between vaccinated or not. That’s not verifiable. Assuming everyone is not vaccinated yet, (there will be) social distancing, masks, all the rest of it.”

Santos said there are no expectations on WildExodus’ part that the situation, businesswise, will go back to normal this year.

“Maybe by next summer. Hopefully,” he said.

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com

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