Sask. parks very busy during first long weekend after lifting of COVID-19 restrictions

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Many campgrounds are full and beaches busy over the August long weekend in Saskatchewan, like at Prince Albert National Park. (Leisha Grebinski/CBC - image credit)
Many campgrounds are full and beaches busy over the August long weekend in Saskatchewan, like at Prince Albert National Park. (Leisha Grebinski/CBC - image credit)

People hoping for some outdoor adventures this August long weekend should get ready for busy lakes and beaches in Saskatchewan.

This is the first three-day weekend since the province lifted its public COVID-19 restrictions earlier this month and many campgrounds at regional, provincial and national parks are packed.

"This whole summer has been extremely busy," said Melanie Neufeld who manages Sturgeon Lake Regional Park.

"But this weekend seems to be unprecedented."

All 55 camp sites are full at the provincial park, which is around 50 kilometres northwest of Prince Albert.

In addition to the usual long weekend busy-ness, the park hosts several activities and events like a volleyball tournament and a beach party on Saturday.

"We didn't have anything last year, so this is our first time since they've lifted the restrictions," said Neufeld.

Beach-life doesn't seem to be much calmer about 90 kilometres southwest.

Like Sturgeon Lake, Emerald Lake Regional Park is also hosting lots of outdoor activities this weekend.

"It's good to bring them back because we didn't have them last year," said park manager Damen Van Meter.

For the first time since 2019 the community is celebrating Emfest at the regional park, including a kids fun day and a pickleball tournament.

The usual fireworks have been cancelled due to the current fire ban.

Shortage of regional park passes

The park has been busy all summer long, but this long weekend still feels different, said Van Meter.

"You see a lot more people out and about and interacting with each other."

The park's campground has been fully booked on all weekends in July and August, according to Van Meter, but visitors can still come to the park during the day.

In addition, people have been very interested in regional park passes which are good for the entire summer.

"We even had some troubles getting them from Sask Regional Parks because they had a shortage as well because they're selling so many," said Van Meter.

While there was no line-up at the entrance Saturday morning, visitors should be aware that there might be increased wait times during the weekend, said Van Meter.

Last Mountain Regional Park

August long-weekend is historically the busiest time at Last Mountain Regional Park, and the situation is no different in 2021, according to park administrator Melanie Rich.

"It's ... a steady stream of traffic coming in," she said.

"May long weekend was obviously very different because it stormed here and it was snowing. So it was a different start to the season."

This weekend all campgrounds are booked at the park, which is located halfway between Saskatoon and Regina at the north end of Last Mountain Lake, inside the oldest bird sanctuary in North America, according to the park's website.

Provincial and national parks

Anyone hoping for last-minute camping opportunities at Saskatchewan's provincial parks also shouldn't get their hopes up.

The Battlefords Provincial Park is just one of many with no available campsites this weekend, according to the Saskatchewan Parks website. People can still purchase a daily park entry.

Grasslands National Park in southern Saskatchewan had no availability on its electric campsites on Saturday or Sunday night, according to the park, but overflow camping will be available all weekend as well as back country camping opportunities.

In northern Saskatchewan, the campsites were all booked at Prince Albert National Park. Back country camping is also full on Saturday night along the park's Grey Owl Trail.

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