Alberta Parks (Canada) campsites experience lower reservations this year as it heads into the long weekend of May and the unofficial start of summer camping season.
Alberta Parks Visitor Experience and Business Supports Interim Executive Director Nancy MacDonald said openings stayed at 66 of 95 campgrounds as of last Wednesday afternoon.
During the Wednesday before the long weekend last year, openings were at 30 of the 95 sites.
“This year, now that people have some more options — they can leave the province, and we’re moving to a different level of COVID sensitivity — we certainly have less reservations than we experienced at this point last year,” said MacDonald. “So we certainly encourage anybody who’s still thinking about going camping this weekend to take a look at reserving at albertaparks.ca.”
MacDonald said, aside from eased COVID restrictions, she believes changes made to the reservation system contributed to the added availability.
Alberta Parks opened its online reservation system year-round earlier this year instead of this summer. The nights available for booking per night decreased to ten, down from 16, and the fee to change reservations after they were made was also increased, according to a report.
“Sometimes people booked quite a bit or more days than they were intending to use. So we did a couple of things to try and make sure that we’re always trying to achieve fair and equitable access to the park system,” said MacDonald. “Really just trying to make sure that the people who are making bookings are doing so in a way that still allows access to the system for everybody else.”
MacDonald said reservations over the next three months follow a similar trend to the May long weekend as they are currently down by about 30% from past years.
The decreased reservations come after two years of high interest in camping in Alberta. During the pandemic, bookings increased by 169% in the past two years. Approximately 330,000 reservations were made for close to 9,000 bookable Alberta Parks campsites.
Canadian Parks and Wildlife Society Southern Alberta Chapter Executive Director Katie Morrison said the May long weekend is an exciting time as people begin to head back outdoors with the improving weather.
However, she said it is important for people to plan and ensure they have minimal impact on the environment.
“It really is an opportunity for Albertans to get out and experience and appreciate the amazing places that we have in Alberta,” said Morrison. “But we want people to do that safely. And we want the people to do that responsibly, keeping in mind that these are really special places and that we need to be good stewards of them.”
Morrison said Albertans should ensure their pets are leashed, guard their campfires, and collect their garbage. She said campers staying in sites outside the marked campsites should set up at least 30 meters from water sources and dispose of human waste at least 70 meters away from the water.
This article originally appeared on Calgary Sun.