In today’s post comes from Discovery Leader Matt Cunliffe at MacGregor Point Provincial Park.
When the big day comes, if you’re like me, all you want to do is get to your site: tent set, chairs out, feet up.
I’ve worked for Ontario Parks since 2006, and last year had the opportunity to run a gate house.
This gave me an increased respect for the amazing work our gate staff perform and valuable perspective on just how busy the park can be during check-in time for a long weekend…or any weekend for that matter.
And after a season of answering questions and helping campers, here are a few considerations for this year:
1. Obey all signs, including stop signs and hours of operation
Vehicle occupants can literally be buzzing with excitement when arriving at the park.
It’s important to stay alert and obey signs. Parks can be challenging place to drive with other cars, bikes, kids, and wildlife!
There are stop signs located at the gatehouses, so please obey as you would any road sign.
These road signs are there for everyone’s safety, including your own.
2. Stop, wave, and smile or say hi to the staff working the gates
We love getting to know our park visitors!
This goes along with the first point: stop at the stop signs and look for staff in the booth or office.
Show your pass or wait to be served. The gate staff will wave you through or raise the gate arm.
This is the time that the gate staff can share important updates or reminders to our regular park visitors: what’s in bloom, what trails are closed, or if there’s an active bear.
This is also a great opportunity for you to ask questions about the park (providing it’s not a super busy day)!
3. Wait patiently if there’s a line-up
It just means that other people also thought it was a great time to visit the park too! Looking for a less busy time? Try before 11:00 am or after 4:00 pm.
Many parks will also provide you with capacity updates and great suggestions on social media – check there before you head out the door.
At different times of the year, our staffing levels vary. Sometimes, not all booths will be staffed or hours will be reduced.
Please line up in front of the booths that say “open.” We will be able to serve you once the lane is clear for you to proceed. If the hours of operation are reduced, use the pay-and-display machines for your permit.
Annual or seasonal permit holder? We appreciate your support of Ontario Parks, and are so glad to make it more affordable for you to visit regularly. Remember, though, that seasonal permits do not allow (skip the line) priority access. Please wait until the lane is clear for you to proceed.
4. Have your seasonal permit, advance daily vehicle permit, or payment option ready
This helps to keep the line (if any) moving. We have tap!
If you’re visiting one of seventeen parks piloting advance daily vehicle permits this year, be sure to follow instructions on your confirmation email.
Annual or seasonal permit holder? Have your permit facing the gate staff so it can be easily identified.
Pro tip: if you’re checking in for camping, consider preregistering before you arrive to speed up the process. Log in to your account to update your licence plate and the names of members in your group.
5. Be kind and polite to park staff
We will happily provide information and explain why some rules exist.
Remember: summer students in the gatehouse don’t make the rules! Our staff are doing everything to make your visit (and check-in) enjoyable.
6. Research the park and rules before arriving
Pro tip: dive deeper than the initial search result summaries, and go to our website. It has the most up-to-date information.
7. A permit is always required (even a free permit)
If no staff are present, visitors still need to obtain and display a park permit from the pay-and-display machine.
Know that entry fees help support the ongoing park operations and conservation efforts of Ontario Parks for future generations.
Myth: Your friends might tell you that entry is free if you arrive within one hour of close or no one is at that gatehouse. This is false.
We’re so happy to welcome you!
When you arrive at a provincial park this year, remember that all our staff are always doing their best to help you.
If you don’t know something, ask!
Our staff work in parks because they love them as much as our visitors do. We are always happy to share information about our parks, and love answering camper questions and hearing about your experiences (just try to save those stories for when there isn’t a line-up).
It will be another busy camping and day use season, so please be patient if caught in a line-up.
Our staff take pride in moving quickly to get you into the park so you can connect with nature and make your own discoveries.