New Brunswickers were in a tight race to claim camping spots at Fundy and Kouchibouguac national parks yesterday, as registration opened with demand for outdoor activities at new heights.
The Parks Canada site opened at 8 a.m. and, in some cases, left eager campers to endure hour-long waits behind a queue of 7,000 bookers.
Spokesperson Marie-Sophie Desaulniers said Parks Canada has noticed an increase in demand for campsites over the last few years, but this launch day attracted even more bookings than last year on launch day.
"With the pandemic, especially this year, there's now a really high interest in camping," said Desaulniers.
"Not only is it accessible, but it's also one of the few things you can be confident is as safe as possible."
Jones said, as of the early afternoon yesterday, there were over 6,000 bookings for Fundy National Park and over 4,000 bookings for Kouchibouguac National Park .
She said that's about double the amount of bookings compared to launch day last year.
'Sites were disappearing'
Salisbury resident Shelley Jones is a longtime camper and usually plans several trips a year to Fundy National Park.
"We go every year, we have for the last number of years," she said.
Jones said she's gotten used to waking up early on Parks Canada opening registration day to claim her favourite sites, but this year was different.
"It filled up much faster this year than it did last year," said Jones.
Jones said she got online at 6 a.m. and waited two hours for the launch.
She had a notepad inscribed with her favourite campsites and preferred dates.
When registration opened she was booted behind 2,500 others and didn't make it in time to claim any of her desired spots.
"Sites were disappearing while you were looking at them," said Jones.
She did manage to book for her preferred dates, but said it was a significant struggle compared to previous years.
The new queue
Desaulniers said Parks Canada began preparing for the higher demand a couple of years ago with a new queue system to manage traffic on the website.
"The queue system is there to make it as fair as possible," she said.
"It's been really helpful in managing that increase in demand."
She said anyone who's on the site before 8 a.m. gets put in a virtual waiting room and is given a random spot in line.
Desaulniers said, with this system, there's no need for anyone going on the site earlier than opening because it wouldn't be of any advantage.
The opening day for registration was pushed forward a few months this year.
Parks Canada would normally accept bookings in January, but wanted to give people a chance to sort out their plans before opening the site.
Desaulniers said Fundy and Kouchibouguac tend to get cancellations throughout the summer, and that spots could become available.