B.C.’s campsite reservation service for provincial parks is seeing more than its usual surge in demand as people restricted from travelling in the COVID-19 pandemic try to book their getaways.
The B.C. Parks discovercamping.ca website didn’t crash when it opened after a shutdown of provincial parks that took effect April 8, Environment Minister George Heyman said May 25, but it has been slow enough that browsers may time out. People should keep trying the website, or consider the option of the Discover Camping call centre (1-800-689-9025) that has a $5 surcharge to book, he said.
“Every year when we open reservations there is a flood of people on the website,” Heyman told CFAX radio station in Victoria. “And this year because people’s travel options are restricted, people obviously are really desperate to get out, to get close to nature, to be out with their family and they know they’re in all likelihood not leaving the province.”
Provincial campgrounds themselves reopen June 1, and Heyman notes that about 45 per cent of the campsites in B.C. are still operated on a first-come, first-served basis. The booking window has also been shortened from four months in advance to two.
“We know in some cases people can’t make those plans that far in advance, so today we’re open for two months from today,” Heyman said. “Tomorrow there will be another day added and it will go on like that.”
Not all campsites and trails in provincial parks will be reopening. A review of the more than 10,000 B.C. Parks sites has determined that some are too confined to be safe under the province’s public health guidelines for maintaining physical distance.
“Not every campsite will be open, like the double campsites with one driveway,” Heyman said. “We are also encouraging people to bring their own hand sanitizer.”
B.C. joined Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in restricting new campsite reservations to in-province residents only as part of the reopening plan. Heyman said he “heard loud and clear from British Columbians” that if they are expected to stay close to home, they should have priority for parks and campsites.