Provincial parks staff are gearing up for a busy summer, as Saskatchewan residents look for reprieve from seemingly endless hours spent indoors during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Nature is very rehabilitating. You can come and some of the stress of the last few months will hopefully roll away.”
Parks have been open for activities like hiking, biking and fishing in select locations since May 4.
20,000 campsite reservations
Come June 1, campsites will open, though half of them will remain closed to support physical distancing.
There were about 20,000 campsite reservations during the first couple weeks of online bookings, Campese said. Last spring, there were about 28,000 reservations in the same time period.
“It was a very busy reservation launch considering that 50 per cent of our inventory was not available,” Campese said.
Weekends in July and August will likely be the busiest, she said, with high demand for full-service sites.
“Those peak times are going to be very busy and it might be tough to get a site,” she said.
“We’re taking advice from the chief medical health officer and public health officials. And maybe at some point this summer, we might be able to release a bit more inventory.”
New safety protocols
In addition to limited campsite availability, public areas like beaches, playgrounds, and shower and laundry facilities will be closed.
Bathrooms will be open, Campese said, with enhanced cleaning protocols in place for all high-touch areas.
Park rangers are roaming the parks, keeping an eye out for public health order violations.
Enforcement staff issued many safety reminders over the May long weekend, which saw people flock to parks near urban centres, Campese said.
“Hopefully, people have been … up to speed and trained in that behaviour, and we’re hoping they’ll continue that with their park visits,” she said.
Saskatchewan residents only
Provincial parks are open only to Saskatchewan residents.
People who book campsite reservations online are asked to confirm that they live in the province.
The rule is based on the honours system, Campese said, as requesting identification at park gates would increase contact between staff and visitors.
People who have an annual park permit and site reservation can drive directly to their campsite without stopping at visitor reception, she said.