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Whistlers Campground in Jasper National Park to be closed through 2020

The existing campsites at Whistlers Campground in Jasper National Park. .
The existing campsites at Whistlers Campground in Jasper National Park. . Parks Canada

Whistlers Campground in Jasper National Park will be closed for a year longer than originally planned, Parks Canada announced on Friday.

Work on a major overhaul at the campground began in October 2018, forcing its closure for the 2019 camping season.

The original plan was to reopen the campground in the spring of 2020, but Parks Canada said “the size and complexity of the project have meant that contracting and work at the site have required more time than initially expected.”

“To allow the work to take place in a safe and efficient manner, Parks Canada would like to advise the public that the campground will remain closed for the 2020 operational season,” the organization said in a media release Friday.

“It is simply not safe, desirable, or practical to have visitors camping adjacent to a construction zone.”

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Parks Canada said it is sending out the notice of the extended closure now, in hopes of providing “as much certainty as possible for visitors, business and tourism industry.”

READ MORE: Jasper’s large Whistlers Campground closed in 2019 for major overhaul

Whistlers boasts nearly 800 of the 1,800 campsites in the national park. Prior to the closure, local businesses raised concerns about the impact the closure would have on tourism.

“Parks Canada understands the concerns and difficulties associated with this closure and is committed to providing visitors, the community and local businesses with timely updates as the project progresses,” Parks Canada said.

WATCH BELOW: Plan to close Whistlers campground for renovations in 2019 alarms Jasper businesses (July 2018)

Plan to close Whistlers campground for renovations in 2019 alarms Jasper businesses
Plan to close Whistlers campground for renovations in 2019 alarms Jasper businesses

Ryan Davies, the general manager of Jasper Pizza Place, told Global News on Saturday that his restaurant has “absolutely” been impacted by the campground’s closure.

“Sales aren’t quite what we expected,” he said. “Days aren’t quite as busy as they used to be because we don’t get the influx of campers like we did last year or years prior.

“I just want them to get it open so that we can be busier.”

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Davies acknowledged Jasper has not had ideal weather this summer but said he and others in the town’s restaurant sector believe the campground closure is clearly hurting them, even when factoring in the bad weather.

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“Normally when it rains in Jasper, we absolutely get run over in the restaurant but that just hasn’t been the case this year,” he said.

“It just sucks for business and not only the restaurants but the retail stores… especially since it has been such a crappy summer, I mean the retail stores are not selling the rain gear, they’re not selling the tarps and all that extra stuff that they normally would be selling if it was raining.”

Despite his frustration, Davies said he realizes such a big undertaking is difficult to do quickly and he’s not sure how the campground’s makeover could have been handled differently.

“I think overall, obviously, it’s definitely going to be a good thing,” he said. “It’ll attract a different clientele as well… overall it will be good when it’s all said and done and it’s finally up and running everybody’s going to be happy again, but right now it just sucks.”

Whistlers Campground was built in the 1960s and has not had a significant upgrade since.

The renovations will feature 17 new combined bathrooms and showers. Currently, there are only two shower buildings located at one end of the campground and 27 washrooms.

There will be a new registration centre, a second entrance into the campground for registered campers, and the roads within Whistlers will be widened to accommodate two-way traffic and larger RVs.

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READ MORE: Hundreds of hectares of trees being removed from Jasper area

Campsites will also be levelled, delineated, and re-sized. Underground services, including water, sewer and electrical systems are also being replaced and existing campsites will be equipped with more 50 Amp capable power sites.

Parks Canada said Friday that visitation to Jasper National Park has increased this year compared to last, but didn’t release specific numbers on how many people visited the Alberta park.

The new timeline is to open the campground in time for the 2021 camping season, Parks Canada said.

–With files from Global News’ Phil Heidenreich