OTTAWA — The federal environment minister says Canadians who have campground reservations in some national parks will be allowed to pitch their tents and pull in their trailers starting next week.
Jonathan Wilkinson says camping will be allowed as early as Monday at 31 national parks — including Gros Morne in Newfoundland, Banff in Alberta and Kluane in Yukon.
"We're starting with existing reservations," Wilkinson said in an interview Wednesday.
All national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas were closed at the end of March to slow the spread of COVID-19, but many reopened to day-use visitors in early June.
Officials had said there would be no camping before June 21.
Wilkinson said Monday's reopening of campgrounds, which includes those in the backcountry, is good news for Canadians.
"The weather is getting much better," he said. "This is a good opportunity to enjoy the outdoors."
Due to COVID-19 restrictions on international travel, he said staff will be cancelling and refunding reservations from international visitors — including those from the United States — until at least Aug. 7.
Parks Canada said Canadians who want to book a campsite at a national park should check the reservation website regularly for updates as additional sites will open up in the coming weeks.
Each national park will set its own rules, said Wilkinson.
Gros Morne, for example, won't allow a return of camping until June 29, starting with RVs and low-risk backcountry camping.
In Banff National Park, backcountry camping and select front-country sites will open Monday but with some restrictions. Equipped campsites and comfort camping aren't opening.
Showers and kitchen shelters in Banff will not reopen and front-country campgrounds will be limited to 75 per cent capacity.
Banff will also keep backcountry shelters by closed until at least October, says its website.
Kluane National Park is allowing overnight use of designated trails, routes and backcountry camping starting Monday. "Registration and de-registration phone is mandatory for all overnight use."
The park is also asking users to maintain a two-metre distance from people outside their household bubble. Backcountry outhouses will not be maintained.
Parks Canada is reminding all Canadians who plan to travel outside of their home province to camp in a national park that they need to follow the rules and regulations in the one they are visiting.
"Some provinces and territories allow only essential inbound travel at this time. Others require that outside visitors follow a self-isolation protocol," the agency said in a news release. "It is not possible to self-isolate at Parks Canada campgrounds."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17, 2020
— By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton
The Canadian Press