Backcountry permit fees will stay the same for this year’s camping season as Ontario Parks continues a flat fee pilot program for certain parks.
According to a report, the Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks (MECP) confirmed that permit fees for backcountry campsites would remain status quo across the province, despite two parks continuing to experiment with flat fees.
For two years, the provincial government had tested flat fee, in which campers paid at least 300% more for a backcountry site as opposed to the prior seasons.
The plan was being tested for campsites in the Massasauga and the Temagami cluster of parks, charging CA$40.75 and CA$32.50 per night regardless of the size of the group. In the past, campers were charged CA$9 per night per person.
The ministry explained that fee changes make backcountry camping fees consistent with the flat-rate per-campsite car camping model.
MECP has stated that the pilot program was scheduled to end at the close of the 2021 season. The ministry will conduct a study and collect the feedback of visitors to determine the long-term plan for backcountry fees across Ontario Parks.
“The ministry continues to review all feedback including the results from the visitor survey conducted in 2021, and we can confirm that the Massasauga Provincial Park and the Temagami Cluster of parks will continue to participate in the pilot for the 2022 season,” an MECP spokesperson said in an interview.
“All other backcountry parks will remain status quo for the 2022 season.”
Many campers were unhappy with the hike in fee rates at Massasauga and the Temagami cluster of parks because it imposes additional costs on those who travel solo or in pairs.
The ministry said last year, based on previous data for reservations and group sizes, that the average backcountry group comprises four people, while solo campers make up just 11% of bookings, and pairs comprise 38%. It justified the fees as reflective of the amenities available at the respective parks.
An online petition was launched just after the rollout of the government’s pilot project claiming the fee increase is unfair. It precludes the use of campsites by those who travel solo, many of whom have done volunteer work within some of the parks.
As of Wednesday, close to 11,000 people had signed the petition.