With spring slowly but surely on its way to the NWT, one MLA is suggesting the territory “jump the gun” and open campgrounds earlier this year.
In the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, tourism minister Caroline Wawzonek announced campground reservations are set to open in stages between May 4 and May 7, while the campgrounds themselves are slated to open on either May 15 or the May 24 long weekend.
Kam Lake MLA Caitlin Cleveland asked about the possibility of opening campgrounds on April 30 instead.
“We have, in the North, some pretty tough people,” she said.
“I think they would love to start their staycation season a little bit early given that they have been in town for a long time, and would love the opportunity to break out their campers.”
Cleveland’s request comes after the Yukon announced it would be opening its campgrounds on May 1.
However, Wawzonek said contractors need time to repair facilities and get them into working order once the thaw begins.
“I, as much as anyone else who has not travelled anywhere, would like to be outside,” she said.
“It’s going to be the same opening as usual.
“We have the very fortunate situation in the North where people can indeed go camping at sites outside of the formal territorial parks, and there are many fine lodges and other staycation opportunities in the Northwest Territories.
“I know that my news is not necessarily good, but we will have those parks in wonderful working order as soon as the date arrives.”
There is still a possibility of once again extending the season later into the fall, Wawzonek continued, adding that it cost more than $200,000 to keep parks open until September 30 last year.
The department is also looking at offering incentives for NWT residents to get out and camp.
“Last year, there was a coupon program that encouraged people to stay longer in the parks, and we are looking right now at doing that again,” Wawzonek said. “It did seem to be very successful.”
Following the first two days of bookings last June, the government says it mailed out 1,192 coupons for extra nights.
Wawzonek finished: “While I am not in a position to stand and make any official announcements right now, we certainly are actively looking at doing that again, precisely to encourage people to get out and utilize the facilities of the fantastic parks that we do have.”