Learn to Camp was recently honoured with the “Innovator of the Year” award by the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario. The market response to the program has impressed and inspired even the staff at Ontario Parks! Jeff Brown, Learn to Camp Coordinator says,
“The popularity of this program has really blown us away. Year over year, we have added capacity to the program and every year we have ended the season with a long waiting list of eager new campers. The hands-on experiential training is exactly what new campers are looking for in their first camping experience.”
Ontario Parks is an organization that epitomizes teamwork. This program has worked because staff at all levels of the organization, have worked so well together to make the Learn to Camp program a reality.
“We reached out to people who wanted to try camping but didn’t know where to start and gave them the opportunity to enjoy one of Ontario’s favourite activities. The smiles on the faces of participants as they enjoy their first campfire make this initiative so worthwhile”, says Charlene Coulter, Superintendent of Sibbald Point Provincial Park.
Ontario Parks takes a three-pronged approach to its Learn to Camp program offered in partnership with Coleman Canada. It offers online resources like the Learn to Camp section on its website. It reaches out to and engages communities across the province through fun and interactive presentations at public libraries, community centres and new Canadian settlement organizations. The overnight camping experience offered at Bronte Creek, Darlington, Earl Rowe, Emily, Grundy Lake, Murphys Point Selkirk, Sibbald Point and Six Mile Lake Provincial Parks, is the ultimate way to learn how to camp. The overnight program is designed to introduce an authentic camping experience to families in a safe, fun and comfortable environment. It helps new visitors gain the skills and confidence they need to have a safe and enjoyable camping trip on their own. Best of all, visitors require minimal resources to participate- just their own food, bedding and personal items. Camping equipment and accessories have been generously provided by Coleman and Canadian Tire, with support from Swish Maintenance and SC Johnson.
From Ontario Parks’ perspective, we are teaching new campers not only the skills but also the responsibilities attached to camping in Provincial Parks. Respecting the environment, parks and fellow campers has helped created a whole new community of people who return year after year to enjoy Ontario’s outdoors. Those who participate are often inspired to become life-long campers. Statistics on the program show more than 50% of our 6,000 overnight camping experience graduates have continued to camp in Ontario Parks. Every component of the program helps Ontario Parks maintain a protected and sustainable park system for residents of Ontario. Most Ontarians are not aware that the 85% of the revenue supporting the cost of operating provincial parks comes from parks users and partners.
For those who want to try Learn to Camp in 2014, registration begins May 1st at: http://www.OntarioParks.com/learntocamp. In 2014 we will have space for more than 1,000 families to participate across the nine provincial parks offering the program. Parkbus will offer public transportation to Learn to Camp Programs between Toronto and Grundy Lake Provincial Park, and our new Learn to Fish program will continue to offer an exciting opportunity to try fishing for the first time, equipment included.