The provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan are getting ready to take online registrations for the 2015 camping season. Because of the high demand for campsites, both provinces have made changes to their websites to make registering more convenient and efficient.
At reserve.albertaparks.ca, they are opening with group camping on Feb. 9 and regular camping on Feb. 17 and are staggering reservations by region and time.
“This strategy we feel will improve the ease and the access for people looking to book on the May long weekend,” said Tim Chamberlain, public affairs officer for Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation. “There won’t be such a flood of people coming in at one time.”
There are about 14,000 campsites with roughly 250 provincial campgrounds, but the demand is so high that last year they had over 132,000 online reservations.
“We have about 360,000 account holders, so that gives you a bit of an idea how popular camping is in Alberta,” Chamberlain said.
Chamberlain said there have been some improvements made for lakes in the Lloydminster area, including enhancements at Whitney Lake Provincial Park. Upgrades were made to about 53 campsites involving expansions, widenings and the addition of power to 33 sites.
“So that will be new for campers in your area out there,” he said. “Just get out and enjoy Alberta’s provincial parks this summer.”
On the Saskatchewan side, camping is no less popular with a 24 per cent increase in visits to the province’s parks since 2007.
Reservations on saskparks.net will begin on March 2 and in addition to staggering their launch dates over different days, they’ve also added a queuing system to manage the volume of users coming into the system at any given time.
“Because camping is so popular, everyone is quite anxious to get in and make their reservations, which puts quite a bit of pressure on the reservation system itself,” said Mary-Anne Wihak, director of visitor experiences for the Saskatchewan Parks Service.
“So this will spread out that volume of users across those 10 days.”
The Saskatchewan budget for 2014-2015 increased funding to parks by 4.6 per cent, allowing for some significant improvements to visitor facilities and services. This included adding electricity to roughly 1,550 sites across the park system and upgraded electricity to about 1,200 campsites.
For areas popular with Lloydminster campers, Makwa Lake Provincial Park had some big electrical upgrades and Meadow Lake Provincial Park saw the building of new service centres and boat launch upgrades.
“We encourage people to check our website,” Wihak said. “They’ll find the dates that apply to them and also we’re going to be continuously updating our website, so people can understand how the new queue works. They will also will be able to go on to the reservation website well in advance and take a look at lots of different campgrounds and go in and view the campsites.”