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Waterton park ready for summer visitors: ‘We’re expecting a big turnout’

Click to play video: 'Waterton residents ready for summer tourist season' Waterton residents ready for summer tourist season
Businesses in Waterton Lakes National Park are adapting to public health rules, ahead of the summer tourist season. As Erik Bay reports, even with the restrictions, the park is expecting a busy summer. – May 14, 2021

Waterton residents are sitting on pins and needles.

“I’ve been here 30 years. I’m third generation and I’m so excited for this season,” said Shameer Suleman, vice-president of the Waterton Park Chamber of Commerce.

Read more: Waterton Lakes National Park welcomes back bison displaced after Kenow wildfire

Suleman feels this will be a successful season for the park, as Waterton moves further into its recovery from the 2017 Kenow wildfire.

“There’s just so much more open this year, as far as hikes and activities, than there ever has been since pre-2017,” Suleman said.

Read more: Alberta tourist destinations prepare for another uncertain season amid COVID-19

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Some local business owners think this summer will be even busier than 2020.

The park is already bustling, according to Blakiston & Co. owner Michael Olsen, who rents bikes and adventure gear in Waterton.

Click to play video: 'Waterton Lakes National Park welcomes back bison displaced after Kenow wildfire' Waterton Lakes National Park welcomes back bison displaced after Kenow wildfire
Waterton Lakes National Park welcomes back bison displaced after Kenow wildfire – Feb 25, 2021

“We’re expecting a big turnout. Everybody’s excited to get out and do more, I think more so almost than last year,” Olsen said.

“It’s been waves in and out of these restrictions and I think everybody’s ready to get out and have some fun.”

Another Waterton draw set to return soon is the Crandell Mountain Campground, which is expected to be ready by 2023 after reconstruction plans were announced Thursday.

Click to play video: 'Federal government sets aside $21M towards Waterton Lakes restoration' Federal government sets aside $21M towards Waterton Lakes restoration
Federal government sets aside $21M towards Waterton Lakes restoration – Jan 25, 2019

Waterton National Park field unit Supt. Salman Rasheed says the return of the campground will relieve pressure on the Townsite Campground, allowing more visitors.

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“The past three months at the start of this calendar year have been some of our busiest months ever,” Rasheed said.

“Our expectation is that the Townsite Campground will be quite full.”

Read more: Waterton Lakes National Park prepares for June 1 reopening

With more attractions open this year and the pandemic keeping Albertans close to home, Olsen is excited to show off what he says is the province’s hidden gem.

“I just love this place. I’ve been coming here since I was a little kid.

“I’m just surprised how many people don’t know of this gorgeous place.”

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