A Social Distance Summer

What you can and can’t do in campgrounds across Canada.

By Marney Carmichael
Photos courtesy KOA

COVID-19 has changed camping across Canada. This summer, and for the rest of the year, campers will be faced with new rules and restrictions and even campground closures. How and where Canadians can pitch a tent has been affected.

Shane Devenish, Executive Director of the Canadian Camping and RV Council (https://ccrvc.ca/), says, “Restrictions are loosening up, but it’s a lot better now than we thought it would be. Campers will have to adhere to guidelines that have been set by local health authorities.”

New Guidelines

All national and provincial parks and private campgrounds across the country must abide by each province’s public health orders. This will vary across from province to province. Campers will be asked to follow the advice of public health experts to protect themselves and others during the pandemic.

Saskatchewan Parks (https://bit.ly/2ZOsaD0) has asked campers to protect themselves and others by not going camping if they are showing signs of illness and to “bring along cleaning supplies to help stop the spread of the virus”.

Groups and families must respect the maximum gathering limits per provincial orders. According to Camping in Ontario (The Ontario Private Campground Association; www.campinginontario.ca), “Campers must adhere to social gathering size restrictions and maintain two-metre physical distancing with people outside their household and when outside of their campsites.”

Manitoba Parks lists COVID-19 information (https://bit.ly/3gBIP3q) for park visitors and suggests to “pack out everything you packed in, including trash and waste and … avoid busy trails. If a parking lot is full, do not park along roadways”. Many parks and campgrounds will provide campers printed-out guidelines to follow and signs will be posted; however, as one camper already noted of her stay at a park this summer, “They should make it mandatory for all campers to read and sign the guidelines upon entering the campground and make sure they understand other rules such as no garbage, no body rinsing at outdoor taps.
There seem to be too many campers who don’t know these rules or don’t follow them.”

What to Expect

Camping will be a different experience with COVID-19. What can Canadians expect?

  • Longer than normal wait times at campsite call centres and restrictions on campsite bookings, possible closure of camp offices or limited access to office
  • Postponement or cancellation of community events in campgrounds
  • Possible shower closures or restrictions on numbers allowed in shower and toilet areas
  • Possible beach or trail closures
  • Outdoor swimming pool closures or restrictions to access. According to Saskatchewan Parks: “Each pool may have slightly different guidelines to follow and signage will indicate changes to be aware of.” 
  • Possible closures of shared facilities such as laundry areas, cookhouses, playgrounds or canoe and kayak rentals (some parks are not loaning out life jackets)

A number of provincial parks, such as Parks New Brunswick (https://parcsnbparks.ca), are posting information about site areas that are not disinfected such as benches, handrails and dumping stations and requesting that campers use gloves or sanitizer after handling. Hello BC (www.hellobc.com/10-ways-to-travel-safely) lists ways to travel smart this summer and suggests to pack a “Clean Trip Kit, including hand sanitizer, soap, gloves, masks and toilet paper”.

Of camping during this ‘new normal’ Saskia Boogman, External Content Manager, Kampgrounds of America says, “As you can imagine, due to the various locations of our campgrounds, precautions do vary in keeping with local and provincial mandates and restrictions. In the vast majority of cases we are seeing alterations to registration – often curbside check-in – enhanced cleaning procedures and closures or capacity limitations for site amenities. We have some locations doing innovative activities that try to add fun while keeping distancing in mind.” 

We will have to adapt to this outdoor COVID lifestyle – but remember, we’re all in this together. Be patient and kind to your fellow campers this year. Leave no trace behind and enjoy your outdoor adventure, it will certainly be a memorable one.  

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