A record number of people made camping reservations at Kejimkujik National Park after they were made available at 8 a.m. on April 23.
A total of 11,000 reservations were made for the park, more than double the previous record of 5,200 in 2019.
Sophie Borcoman, Visitor Experience Manager, said that a rise in numbers was expected, but thrilling nonetheless.
“From a Parks Canada level, we were so excited because we knew that we had so much new to present to the visitors, and for the fact that we were closed in 2020 for construction and maintenance,” she said.
“We were really pleased that our loyal Keji customers that have been coming for multiple generations were really keen to come back, and obviously there was a lot of interest from new campers out there who’ve never been to Keji.”
Numerous upgrades were undertaken at the park last year thanks to a $10.4 million infrastructure injection by the federal government. The main campground was closed to allow for the work to proceed uninterrupted.
Upgrades included 10 new gender-neutral and accessible washroom and shower facilities, new camping experiences with five new Oasis cabins, new drinking water, new wastewater infrastructure and a new 6.3 kilometres of shared-use trail.
As well, insulation was also added to the cabins and oTentiks to extend the shoulder season so campers could book accommodations a little longer into the fall.
Borcoman said there was a lot of interest in booking the new Oasis cabins, tear-drop-shaped pods that are located up in the tree line. At the same time, there was a good mix of campers wanting to stay overnight, two or three days and many planning to stay for a week.
Despite the swell in booking numbers, according to Borcoman there is still availability for campers, and people are encouraged to keep checking back because of cancellations and people wanting to change dates throughout the summer.
“Don’t give up. If you didn’t get what you wanted when you tried to book, just keeping checking back,” she suggested.
Meanwhile, Parks Canada is taking steps to address any concerns regarding the pandemic.
“We will be taking extra precautions following provincial guidelines in terms of maximums inside our indoor facilities,” said Borcoman. “Our prime concern is the safety of our visitors and staff.”
However, campers are advised to bring sanitizer and hand wipes because the outdoor spaces that include picnic tables and other equipment will not be sanitized on a regular basis.
At the time of writing this, park staff were planning on running their regular programming.
“We will have opportunities for visitors to learn about, enjoy and have fun in relation to Kejimkujik with a selection of interpretive programs done in a socially distant manner,” said Borcoman, adding that Mi’kmaq birchbark canoe maker, Todd Labrador, will be returning to build another canoe.
The park is open for use all year round, while camping season begins May 21 and continues until the end of October.
Improvements will continue in the park this year but are not expected to affect the visitor experience.
The federal government is allocating $589,400 from its Greening Government Fund for the installation of a 100-kilowatt photovoltaic solar array at the park. This will offset camper electrical use completely in Jeremy’s Bay Campground and is expected to reduce Kejimkujik’s green house gas emissions by 17 per cent.
Installation will begin this spring and will be completed by next spring.
Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin