Campgrounds in Alberta and across all of Canada are filling up fast with May “long weekend” warriors as the outdoor season officially gets underway today (May 15).
Dozens of camping enthusiasts had already staked their claim Thursday at Golden Sheaf Park near Medicine Hat, Alberta, according to the Medicine Hat News.
“It’s pretty busy,” said one camper who asked to be identified as Kevin. “You pretty much have to come on Thursday to get a spot.”
A steady stream of campers were also pouring into Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, located about 60 miles southeast of Gas City.
Alcohol won’t be flowing at campgrounds there this long weekend, however, due to a temporary liquor ban.
“We’ve had a lot of problems in the past with people consuming excessive amounts of liquor and the hooliganism that follows,” said Peter Swain, the park’s head of visitor services.
Swain says the alcohol ban has made an “astounding” difference. Complaints and evictions at the park’s campgrounds both dropped by about 90% when the ban was first implemented for the 2008 May long weekend.
“A lot of people said ‘I would have preferred to have enjoyed my drink, but I did really enjoy not being disturbed by the other campers,'” Swain added.
Visitors to Gas City Campground and Golden Sheaf Park will be allowed to imbibe alcoholic beverages, however, as long as they stay in their sites.
To ensure people abide by provincial alcohol laws in campgrounds and on the roads, Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers will be out in full force this long weekend.
Police will also be targeting impaired and aggressive drivers in concert with local Alberta sheriffs.
“Be aware that we’re out and about,” said Redcliff RCMP Constable John Dzerdz. “Be careful and follow the rules.”
RCMP say traffic collisions traditionally spike during the first long weekend of the summer.
For Americans not familiar with the Canadian holiday, Canada’s May “long weekend” celebrates the birthday of the current Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. However, the date does not change with the change of monarch. Instead it is set on the birthday of Queen Victoria, the Canadian monarch at the time of Canadian Confederation and establishment of dominion status in 1867. The holiday is celebrated on the last Monday before May 24, which is May 18 this year.