Ontario Parks offering free day use this summer
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
Once the provincial stay-at-home order ends, Ontario Parks is encouraging people to spend time outdoors this summer, offering free day usage from Monday to Thursday, until September 2.
Ontario Parks’ Park Superintendent for the Northwest Zone, Steve Winsor said that while the facilities are ready, they await confirmation from the government to open. He added, “Getting outdoors and spending time in nature can have a profound positive impact on our health and well-being, and this has become even more important during COVID-19. Now, more than ever, the people of Ontario need safe and affordable options to get outside, stay active and connect with nature. As part of our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan commitment, we want to provide Ontario families with more opportunities to enjoy provincial parks.”
Winsor shared that in the area of Dryden and Sioux Lookout’s administrative districts, extending into portions of the far north, there are 15 Provincial Parks and 17 Conservation Reserves. He added that four of these 15 provincial parks are considered Operating Parks, which charge fees, providing a greater variety of facilities and services as compared to non-operational parks. The four local operating provincial parks are Aaron, Blue Lake, Sandbar and Ojibway.
Windsor stresses that regardless of the area that one may be from, they must only visit and enjoy a provincial park or conservation reserve close to home, once restrictions loosen. “Limiting your travel is essential in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19, staying safe and saving lives,” he added.
Ojibway Provincial Park, which is closest to Sioux Lookout, usually offers campground camping opportunities, as well as activities including hiking, biking, canoeing, fishing and swimming. Winsor shared that normal fees will apply for activities, including all camping and equipment rentals, if available for use at the time.
He added that availability of overnight camping will depend on the status of COVID restrictions and guidelines once the stay-at-home order ends.
Further information regarding Ojibway Provincial Park facilities, and for reservations, people can visit Ojibway Park’s social media channels or their page on Ontario Parks website at www.ontarioparks.com/park/ojibway/activities, or call toll-free 1-888-668-7275. Winsor shared that Ontario Parks have seen the demand nearly double over last year.
“We’re counting on people to be responsible when enjoying our provincial parks and continue to follow all of the public health advice, including physical distancing, wearing a face covering when physical distancing is a challenge, washing hands frequently and thoroughly, and if you are worried you may have COVID-19, get tested,” shared Winsor. “The safety of our visitors and staff is always our top priority. We will be implementing measures to address overcrowding, and promote physical distancing in our park spaces and buildings during busy visitation times, by limiting occupancy for day-use and camping in many provincial parks and at select times,” he added.
Some of these measures may include limiting the number of daily vehicle permits sold, or the number of campsites available for reservations. Winsor shared, “You may notice that day-use parking areas will not be as full, and some campsites may remain empty.”
Winsor reminds people to refer to Ontario Parks website for the most recent updates on park usage.
Ontario Parks is extending validity of the 2021 annual daily vehicle permit to December 31, 2022, and their 2021 summer daily vehicle permits for another season next year.
If a customer wishes to return their 2021 seasonal daily vehicle permit and receive a full refund, they have until June 30, 2021 to send the request with the physical permit to Ontario Parks.