Ontario Parks recently announced that it will reduce the length of stay at a number of prime provincial park campgrounds (front-country) from 23 days to only seven. Some campers are rejoicing over this decision, and others are beyond furious over it. 

Ontario Parks made the decision to help ensure that more Ontarians can enjoy camping at some of the more popular parks during the busy summer season. Basically, there are some campers literally hogging the best sites all summer long.

camping in ONKristine Redmond

What’s really causing the problem? It’s simple. More people want to camp. Pitching a tent or trailer at Ontario Parks is busier now. Reservations increased from 4.3 million reserved campsite nights in 2014 to over 6.6 million reserved campsite nights in 2021. Covid didn’t help. The desire to head outdoors, reconnect with nature and calm your anxiety saw outdoor pursuits increase 72 per cent across Ontario from 2020 to 2022.

But was the change made simply to stop some seasoned campers hogging the best sites all summer long from newbies wanting to have a nice site too, or even getting a site at all? I’m thinking there’s more to the story.

camping in Ontario ParksKevin CallanWhen camping at parks quadrupled in numbers and when Ontario Parks got rid of non-reservable sites (AKA first-come, first-serve), it quickly became a nightmare for campers to get a spot to sleep under the stars.

It also created a list of unscrupulous ways for less ethical campers to get the site they wanted, or even make a profit.

campsites in the nature outdoor adventureKristine RedmondPeople would book their site for 23 days, five months prior, have their perfect long weekend holiday, and then cancel the remainder at the last minute. The small cancellations fees didn’t seem to deter this behaviour. I don’t know how many times I was told the campground was fully booked, but then witnessed countless campsites completely empty.

There were also more unethical, and illegal, ways to profit from the past reservation system. People would reserve a site for 23 days, and then sell it off for profit online for three times the regular amount or they’d rent it out. It’s against the rules, but that doesn't mean people didn't do it.

how do you feel about the camping limitsKevin Callan

But what about the regular campers, mostly retired, who actually want to (and do) stay on the site for the full 23 days? It’s their dream holiday. Some simply state that no one should hold a premium site at a popular park for almost half the summer. That’s just selfish, and entitlement is something Ontario Parks should not allow.

It’s important to note that not all parks will be limited to just seven days. It’s just the most popular ones: Algonquin, Bon Echo, Killbear, Sandbanks and Pinery. The majority of others (63) will have a 14-day camping limit. Sixteen of the least visited parks remain at 23-day camping limit per visit.

would you camp hereKevin Callan

Ontario Parks did clarify that campers will be able to make back-to-back reservations by making multiple reservations for up to a maximum of 23 nights on a single campsite, subject to availability. Customers will need to make a new reservation once the booking window opens to make their next arrival date. Ontario Parks cannot guarantee back-to-back reservations can be made for the same campsite.

Ontario Parks also stated that reservation holders are not permitted to resell any reservation for profit. If they become aware that anyone has attempted to sell a reservation for profit (for example, if they have listed a reservation on social media or buy-and-sell websites for re-sale for profit), the reservation may be cancelled, and all applicable penalty fees will apply.

If you spot anyone trying to do this, contact: op-reservations@ontarioparks.com.

Maybe it’s time for campers to spread their horizons, travel the shoulder seasons when this new rule doesn’t apply, try multiple parks for less time, visit parks that get less crowds… or just keep moving your site every seven days.

Or maybe we need to add more parks to the province of Ontario?


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