If you were planning to take a few days or a few weeks away from the four walls and decor of your house, apartment or office this summer and planned an escape to nature, you had to be either foresighted or lucky: the online booking system of Ontario Parks overheated from the opening of the reservation season and through the summer by seasoned campers and first-timers unaware of all the tricks-of-the-trade and intricacies involved in booking the site you wanted in the park you had chosen on the dates you had selected. It was to be expected: throughout history, anytime we faced a war, a pandemic, a recession or major catastrophe, we tended to escape into nature to cleanse and cure our minds, to detox our body from the toxicity of confinement, lack of physical activity, Netflixing, Googling and Facebooking immoderately.
Ontario Parks reported that bookings made between Jan. 1 and Feb. 5 DOUBLED over the same time in 2020, while reaching a never before peak on March 1: 58,475 reservations were made for July and August, up from 29,504 the year before. Private campgrounds experienced the same surge. Bookings have increased because it is an extremely safe way to vacation during an outbreak: if you are RV-ing, you are using your own washroom, most sites are at least two metres apart, you can walk around without having to wear a mask. As in any other consumer product, higher demand created an availability problem, as it did for toilet paper, trampolines, fitness equipment and swimming pools at one point or another during the pandemic. On the other hand, when faced with a ‘non-available’ verdict for their first or second or third choice, campers were re-directed to lesser-known and popular sites and were pleasantly surprised! Here are a few of their comments.
My daughter, her partner and relatives had been regulars at Sandbanks Provincial Park and didn’t expect to be out-booked for their annual vacation; they were redirected to Long Point Provincial Park on lake Erie, one of the oldest in Ontario, running since 1921, which holds a great Google review rating of 4.5/5 stars: They were enchanted with their discovery and stay: kilometres of sandy beaches, warm waters, surprising sand dunes. Great overall vacation!
My son is a modest tent camper and experienced camping in New Brunswick on his way to P.E.I and Nova Scotia: ‘Suburbia! Everyone had same large-style campers, lined-up one against the others with no privacy…’
Joey, Vanessa and their two young girls are keen wild camping enthusiasts and Joey’s adapted minibus allows them to do so in isolated places. ‘I don’t feel comfortable in trendy crowded places; we were in Oka and at Sandbanks Provincial Park this summer and the crowds were just crazy! I enjoy best the silence of undisturbed nature, although my girls may not agree with me: they are both very active and social and would probably miss interacting with other kids on a crowded beach…’ comments Joey.
Amanda, Beckham and Minh on their part own a medium-size camper trailer and appreciate the coziness of air-conditioned and other amenities of the trailer; and overall, Amanda states that ‘It was wonderful to see many families creating memories with their children and enjoying the outdoors.’ She adds that ‘Campers have got more and more popular, very scarce if you were in a buying mood, getting bigger and bigger…while the camping lot sizes have remained the same; camping used to be a more affordable way to travel, but due to its increased popularity, prices are rising: RVs, campsites, propane gas, …’ She finally says that the only hiccup in their camping plans was due to the provincial border being closed between Ontario and Quebec in May!
Considering camping’s popularity this summer, it obviously reached and surpassed its usual goals as it brought many visitors in our area considering our camping facilities and availability in Chute-à-Blondeau, Alfred, L’Orignal, …These visitors-campers used the services provided by our stores, our small businesses, our restaurants! And they will spread the good news to their relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers… which will have a positive snowball effect for us all. Word-of-mouth is the best advertising technique in the world!
Stay tuned for next week’s report on VOYAGEUR PROVINCIAL PARK’S 50th!