Campers will be allowed in Keji a few months earlier this year.
Parks Canada spokesperson Theresa Bunbury confirmed today, March 10 that Kejimkujik National Park will open 20 of their backcountry camping sites starting Tuesday, April 1.
“People have requested this change and we are thrilled to be able to provide them access to the back country sites in April,” she told the Courier. “We heard from a lot of people who want to be able to go spring fishing in the park.”
Parks Canada closed Kejimkujik early in 2012 – just after Thanksgiving, citing budget cuts and saying they intended to focus on providing services in the summer when visitor numbers are greater.
Parks Canada didn’t allow anyone in the park after dark that fall, winter and well into the spring of 2013, not until the long weekend in May. Much of the park's backcountry cannot be reached without at least one overnight.
[Keji camping closed Thanksgiving to Victoria Day, October 2012]
Last fall Parks Canada extended the camping season for two weeks past Thanksgiving until the end of October on a trial basis. They also allowed visits to the park after dark this winter, but did not allow camping.
[Keji camping extended, Oct. 2013]
Bunbury says the upcoming spring camping extension is also a pilot to see if the service can be provided with out impacting the park’s budget.
“It needs to be sustainable and so we need a certain amount of up-take,” she said.
In other words, people need to use the service.
Doug Wilson of Digby is one person already making plans for a camping trip in April.
He and Jim Warner had taken a spring fishing trip in Keji every year for 38 years—until last spring.
[Keji budget cuts end four-decade fishing streak, April 2013]
“It’s about time,” said Wilson when contacted by the Courier with the news. “Last year just didn’t seem right without the trip. It’s always meant an end to winter, a way to clean out the system and then roll into summer.”
Wilson says he’s worried if they don’t get back to the annual tradition soon, they might never get back camping.
“At our age, we have to go while we can,” he said.
Wilson says one upside of the closures last year is maybe the fishing will be better this year.
“I don’t imagine too many were fishing back on Frozen Ocean last year—you can’t get a boat in there and so you’d have to hike in or canoe and it’s a long ways,” said Wilson. “Plus with the ice cover we’ve had this year, fishing should be excellent.”
Wilson is pretty confident the service will pay for itself.
“I always figured what we paid would cover the costs,” he said. “What would we use? A little firewood. Even if we had to pay a little more, I wouldn’t mind as long as we can use the park.
“Maybe we’ll get another 30 years out of it,” he said.
Which sites and exactly how the registration process will work hasn’t been finalized yet but Bunbury expects to have more information in the next couple of weeks.
She expects the park will use a system of self-registration.