Province providing more activities to help people get outside and enjoy nature while physical distancing
TORONTO — Getting away from it all in Northwestern Ontario, backcountry camping is a summer rite of passage. As a part of the COVID-19 Emergency Orders, Ontario put restrictions on public access to backcountry camping.
Now, the Ontario government is gradually reintroducing camping in Ontario Parks and recreational camping on Crown land, starting June 1, 2020, to give people more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, while staying safe and practicing physical distancing.
As of June 1, backcountry camping will be available at Ontario Parks, including access points, paddle and portage routes and hiking trails. Ontario Parks will also be expanding day-use activities to include picnicking and off-leash pet areas.
“We are all eager to get outside this time of year, and backcountry camping will give people a low-risk way to enjoy the benefits of being outdoors while following physical distancing rules,” said Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. “We’re counting on people to be responsible when enjoying our parks and continue to follow all of the public health measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Following current provincial restrictions, no more than five people will be allowed to occupy a backcountry campsite during their stay, unless they live in the same household.
The closure of all other overnight camping and some day-use activities at provincial parks and conservation reserves has been extended to June 14 and will continue to be reassessed. All buildings and facilities including campgrounds, roofed accommodations, visitor centers, park stores, playgrounds, and beaches remain closed. Some washroom facilities may be available.
In addition, Ontario is reopening recreational camping on Crown land while reminding visitors to continue to adhere to public health advice as the best defence against COVID-19, such as practicing physical distancing, wearing a face-covering when physical distancing is a challenge, and frequent hand washing. Camping on Crown land does not include the use of shared facilities and is a low-risk way for people to enjoy the outdoors.
“Even as we begin to reopen camping so that Ontarians can enjoy our beautiful outdoors, people’s health and well-being remain our top priority,” said John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. “We have to work together to ensure we open our province in a responsible, cautious manner. We are starting to contain the virus, but we cannot risk undoing all of the progress that we have made by reopening the province too quickly.”
Ontario Parks will begin collecting fees for day-use and backcountry camping access as of June 1. Please visit Ontario parks and click on the “Fees” tab to find out more. Advanced reservations or registrations will be required at most of the 20 operating provincial parks that are offering backcountry camping.
Ontario Parks has been conducting critical maintenance and other park start-up procedures and ensuring operational and safety protocols are in place so that more recreational activities and facilities can open when it is safe to do so.