Provincial campgrounds in Alberta are getting a $24 million facelift this season.
CBC News reported that the Alberta government is spending the money this year to modernize several of its campgrounds, as the number of people using holiday trailers steadily outnumbers the tents.
John Mullin is camped at Gooseberry Campground in Kananaskis this weekend. His says his large trailer is a progression from his a tent trailer a few years ago and a tent even earlier.
“It’s a 24-foot trailer, we have a TV and air conditioning,” says Mullin. “We tented when we were younger and we just moved to a trailer because it’s more comfortable, and for the luxuries — the bed, having a shower and we don’t have to pack coolers.”
Mullin isn’t the only one “going big.” RV sales this year are up 42% from last year according to Go RVing Canada.
The province’s improvements include adding power and water hook ups to its campgrounds, adding nicer washrooms and bigger sites for RVs, says Katrina Bluetchen of Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation.
“We’re interested in keeping pace with what campers are interested in. So, for us, that’s meant making some changes to our parks,” says Bluetchen.
Last long weekend, provincial reservations were up 25% from the year before.
Campgrounds in southern Alberta are booked solid for the upcoming Canada Day long weekend, according to Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation.
Enthusiasm has hardly been dampened by the recent downpours that drenched southern parts of the province, the Calgary Herald reported.
As the rain-battered ground starts to dry, campground owners are now bracing for the onslaught of campers heading out for the weekend. “It’s pretty soggy,” said Pauline Krause, park manager of the Lions Sheep River Campgrounds in Okotoks. “But it isn’t deterring our campers. They’re all aware of it and they’re still coming.”
The Okotoks campground was evacuated as heavy rain touched down Tuesday (June 26). About 18 groups were displaced, but later moved back.
In High River, a large berm shielded George Lane Campground from high-rising water. The area is still muddy, but manager Darlene Wilms said two dozen campers remain on a wait list.
“We’ve been booked forever,” Wilms said.
Both Okotoks and High River residents were on high alert after being placed on a flood watch Tuesday. However, advisories were lifted less than 24 hours later.
Susan Johnson with Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation said provincial parks avoided extensive flooding and closures during the warning period.
Prospective campers are now out of time to reserve a site with clear, sunny skies being forecasted ahead.
Johnson said most campgrounds were “largely booked up about a week ago” and suggested Albertans check out first-come, first-served sites at 170 provincial campgrounds.
Alberta campgrounds won’t follow a sweeping long-weekend booze ban that will force Banff and other national parks to go dry, according to the Calgary (Alberta) Sun.
Cindy Ady, the provincial minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation, said despite Parks Canada announcing a campground ban on all liquor in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks during long weekends, the province has no plans to punish responsible campers for the actions of a rowdy few.
“There’s no reason to punish people who aren’t misbehaving,” said the Calgary member of the legislative assembly.
“The majority of the year we have no issues so why take out a sledgehammer when a ballpeen hammer will do?”
Concerned that booze-fueled revellers are ruining things for families looking for a wholesome wilderness escape, the feds decided to ban alcohol during four long summer weekends, starting with next week’s Victoria Day holiday.
Parks Canada officials said they were seeing a rise in problem drinking in Banff and other parks as campers migrated from provincial campgrounds that had imposed their own alcohol bans.
But Ady said since 2004 only 10 of Alberta’s 500 provincial parks have seen liquor restrictions and those only come into force for the May long weekend.
In total, some 23 provincial campgrounds fall under the temporary ban including those at the Ghost Reservoir provincial recreation area near Cochrane, the only park with an alcohol ban that has any proximity to Banff.
A Parks Canada spokeswoman did not return a call Tuesday.
Town of Banff spokeswoman Janice Carson said Mayor John Stutz was out of the country and a request for comment sent to every town councillor was declined.
Kurt Schroeder of the Banff Tourism Bureau said with or without alcohol, people will continue to flock to the mountain park.
“The parks and campgrounds are integral to the experience and being in this environment it’s still going to provide a stellar experience no matter what conditions are applied,” he said.
Long-time camper Samara Cygman, who said she and her friends drink responsibly when camping, was incensed at the move by Parks Canada and said she will look elsewhere when she makes long weekends plans.
“It ruins things for the majority of people who are able to enjoy liquor responsibly,” she said.
“I think we’ll probably just avoid these areas altogether.”