Although the Ontario government has extended the closure of provincial parks until at least the end of May due to the COVID-19 pandemic, preparations for the summer are still ongoing at Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park, 112 kilometres west of Timmins.
Over the weekend, Deputy Premier and Health Minister Christine Elliott and Environment, Conservation, and Parks Minister Jeff Yurek issued the unsurprising announcement all provincial parks and conservation reserves will remain closed to the public until May 31.
“This includes car camping, backcountry camping, roofed accommodations, day-use opportunities, access points and all public buildings,” reads a government release.
“Provincial parks and conservation reserves will continue to remain fully closed to all recreational activities.”
Ivanhoe Lake, about 11 kilometres west of Foleyet, is a popular summer campground and recreation site for thousands in the area.
It has been in operation since 1960 and has 108 campsites available, 63 of which have electrical hookups.
It would normally open the third Friday in May.
“As with many outdoor types of activities, the numbers of visitors and campers at Ivanhoe Lake fluctuates, depending on weather and other factors,” said Antonio Edwards, assistant park superintendent.
“In 2018, at Ivanhoe Lake we saw approximately 2,000 day-use visitors and approximately 22,300 campers, including those that take part in our seasonal camping program.”
As of now, he indicated there hasn’t been any impact on staffing levels due to the provincial park remaining closed.
Ivanhoe Lake employs three seasonal staff and approximately 10 student staff throughout the operating season.
The province acknowledges the frustration felt by those eager for the start of the camping season, especially with warmer temperatures on the way.
“We understand this extension may impact many Ontarians’ plans during the month of May,” said the provincial release.
“However, the health and well-being of Ontarians is our government’s No. 1 priority.
“Although we are making progress to stop the spread, the virus has not yet been contained.
“As a result, all but essential service workers must continue to stay at home and practice physical distancing.”
Regarding finances, reservations for arrivals up to, and including, any further closure extension date will be automatically cancelled and reservation holders will receive a full refund, with no penalty.
“We are also providing penalty-free refunds to reservation holders who wish to change or cancel their 2020 camping reservation, regardless of arrival date,” said the provincial release.
Edwards said work is still ongoing at the park so it will be ready to enjoy, whenever the time comes.
“As public safety and the health and well-being of visitors and staff in Ontario Parks is our top priority, staff are currently completing various tasks and required training in preparation for re-opening provincial parks when it is safe to do so,” Edwards said.
“We are working hard to ensure that we are prepared to continue to offer exceptional customer service and camping experiences to park visitors at Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park.”