Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, people across the province are looking for an escape and seeking Ontario-based vacations. This year, many are considering roughing it a little by camping.
Mississagi Park, located about 30 kilometres north of Elliot Lake on Highway 639 at the end of Highway 108, is attracting more visitors this season.
In the spring, many feared the provincial parks might not open this summer because of the pandemic.
However, as a result of a decreasing number of COVID-19 cases in the province, the Ontario government has allowed the provincial parks to open slowly.
Sarah Daigle, Mississagi Park’s operations manager, operates the park with nine staff.
Daigle, who has been at Mississagi Park for 21 years, says park usage is up, for both camping and day use.
The park opened first on June 15 for seasonal users. Three days later, day-use was permitted.
As of June 22, the park, the boat launches and overnight camping by the public were allowed. At that time, the public washrooms were also opened and are sanitized regularly. While Mississagi Park is a Ontario Provincial Park, it is administered by the City of Elliot Lake.
However, there are rules to follow. Outside of one’s campsite social distancing of six feet (two metres) is required, entering a building such as the gate house face coverings must be worn, and only one person at a time.
The campsites are far enough apart that social distancing between the sites is not an issue, explains Daigle.
“For most of them (campsites) you can’t see your neighbour,” she adds.
As a result, face coverings are not necessary.
During the first few weeks, only five adults, plus children, were allowed at one campsite. Since the province brought in stage 3, campsites are allowed to have up to six adults, plus children. Sometimes a family arrives with the grandparents and four or five children.
“You don’t want to say you have to get another site because you have kids,” Daigle says with a laugh.
While people from different campsites are allowed to visit each other, they must maintain social distancing, and with a maximum of six adults.
Daigle adds that on the beaches, park users are to stay with their respective group.
There is also a maximum of two vehicles per site. ATVs are not allowed.
Campfires are permitted, depending on the daily fire rating, and only in designated fire pits.