Prince George Campgrounds Fill Up, Post-Pandemic Tourism Numbers Bounce Back

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Gas prices continue to increase, but the price at the pumps hasn’t stopped owners of recreational vehicles from going out to local campgrounds.

According to a report, last weekend, campground operator Don Stephen almost had to put up a “No Vacancy” sign at the Crooked River Provincial Park (British Columbia, Canada), a 64-site campground 70 km north of the city.

“Crooked River was almost full, which is really good for the first weekend in June, and all the other parks, including Purden Lake, were about half-full, which is normal,” said Stephen, who owns Quartz Contracting, which manages the provincial campgrounds in north-central B.C. as a private contractor for BC Parks.

“June is not overly (busy); we should start filling up pretty soon. If it’s raining on a Friday, it makes a big difference. I’m not sure if the gas prices have made a difference yet, but I assume that they will. I know it costs me a lot. I put on a minimum of 1,000 kilometers a week, and I’m usually hauling equipment, and it can be expensive. I went to Fort St. James hauling a trailer and burnt half a tank.”

Campgrounds opened last month. However, unseasonably cool temperatures and the third rainiest May ever recorded caused some campers to be stranded. Stephen says this will likely change as summer begins in the coming weeks.

Stephen is aware that RV sales increased during the pandemic, and the people who bought motorhomes, campers, trailers, and tents at that time when travel restrictions were in effect, are anxious to get out of the city to take advantage of Mother Nature’s offerings.

“I expect a pretty good summer in Prince George,” said Stephen. “I anticipate (people are) going to want to get out and do stuff because they’ve been stuck at home the last two years.

“A lot of people bought RVs in the last few years, and once you buy an RV, you feel obligated to use it.”

Stephen is hoping for the return of longer-haul campers to the 125-site Mount Robson Provincial Park campground near the Alberta border 300 km east of Prince George. That site was relatively deserted the past two summers because of pandemic-related restrictions on interprovincial travel.

“The local ones here – Purden, Crooked River, and Whiskers Point (130 km north) – did really well during COVID, and people went out still,” said Stephen. “It was something you could do.

“The bus traffic is coming back to the (Mount Robson) visitors center, and we think there will be a lot more of that this year.”

Stephen and his team of 40 also run Beaumont provincial campground located at Fraser Lake (134 km west) and Paarens Beach (170 km west), and Sowchea Bay (175 km west) on the south side of Stuart Lake near Fort St. James.

Of the nine provincial park campgrounds, only two campgrounds, Crooked River and Mount Robson offer shower facilities.

BC Parks installed electrical plug-ins at 50 of its 125 sites this year and now has electric vehicle charging stations. Firewood is available at all provincial campgrounds for a CA$10 fee, which provides enough wood to fill a 40-liter plastic container.

Most provincial campgrounds in the area were open by mid-May and will close on September 11, except for Purden and Crooked River, which are open until September 18, and Mount Robson, which closes on September 30.

For reservations, visit.bcparks.ca.

This story originally appeared on Prince George Citizen.

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