Campgrounds hope to be included in Phase 2 of Ontario reopening
BROCKVILLE -- At the KOA Thousand Islands Campground in Mallorytown, work continues to make sure they are ready to reopen when allowed to during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, owner Susan Marcoux is frustrated with the lack of information from the Ontario Government regarding what the reopening might look like.
“What’s not clear for us right know is what we are going to be able to open. Are we going to be able to open pools? Are we going to be able to open playgrounds?” Marcoux said.
“Right now we’re kind of stuck. Everybody is asking ‘oh, ok is the pool open is the playground open...We’re not going to make reservations or we are going to cancel at the last minute,’” Marcoux said.
“We need direction as to whether or not we can open our pool and open the playground so we can make the reservations.”
Public washrooms are also on that list, and Marcoux has been busy with campers calling in to ask questions about the facilities, postponing reservations or cancelling them altogether.
“There’s not a lot of clear information about what going to be going on for the campgrounds.”
Along the St. Lawrence Seaway, campgrounds rely on campers from out of province or out of country to boost business.
At the KOA, about 25 per cent of business is from those reservations, while the other 70-75 per cent comes from within the province.
Marcoux says allowing campers in self-contained units would be a great start, as there are almost 100 sites at the campground for them.
“Open us up for self-contained units. That would be a major, major help. It would be a big step forward to keeping us afloat for next year,” Marcoux said
“If we could open up the lodges that are at least self-contained that would be a big help. We have a lot of people here who can be in their own self-contained units. They have their own washrooms. They have their own facilities. They cook. They do all their own things in their unit. They prepare everything in their unit.”
Practicing physical distancing at a campground can be accommodated when sites are approximately 12 feet apart.
“The biggest thing is trying to social distance and stay safe among the population and being out here it’s very easy to do,” says Dave Van Stralen, a travelling salesman.
Him and his wife travel throughout the U.S. with no permanent Canadian residence, so they live out of their trailer full time.
“I’ve been in grocery stores and such and you’re staying six or eight feet apart from people and you can certainly do that out here. These sites are a good 12 feet apart and getting outside and fresh air and getting uncoupled is better for the population as well,” Van Stralen said.
Some sites at the campground are 50-foot plots, with lots of room to stay distanced from other campers.
“March, April, May, we’ve lost that business and we are still losing business now. People are still cancelling because they just don’t know what’s going on,” added Marcoux.
“Give us a start, help us out, let’s get this economy get going because that’s what we are trying to do. You want our businesses to stay open to stay viable, they are not going to stay viable and open if we don’t know where we are going and we can’t make reservations if we have no clear direction,” she added.
“They’ve got to be bleeding money as are so many other businesses around the province because of COVID,” said Van Stralen.
“We have to find ways to allow the natural progression of business and commerce to happen without compromising safety. And I think this is the perfect environment that it can be done.” he added.
“I encourage them (the province) to look at campgrounds and let them go to 50 per cent or if not more. I think physical distance between sites is a very important factor from one campground to another and they can set boundaries, restrictions, guidelines and let the campground police that and function and earn some revenue,” Van Stralen said.
At KOA Thousand Islands Campground in Mallorytown, Marcoux just wants to open up the campsite during the COVID-19 pandemic, while encouraging physical distancing and other measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“We want to fully comply. We want people to bring their own stuff from where they live so if people are worried about the influx coming into rural areas, bring your own stuff like they are recommending for cottagers,” Marcoux said.
“We’re ready to follow directions. We’re ready to make sure everybody understands what they have before they get here,” she added.
“They want to be able to use their units. They payed for them or are still paying for them and to not be able to use them is pretty sad. You are on your own site. We still maintain physical distancing in the camping industry. That is why it is so wonderful. You’re out in the open and that’s what people want.”