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GRCA to allow limited overnight camping in some parks

Select Grand River Parks will offer overnight camping starting July 10
Grand River Conservation Authority -wetland

The GRCA will reopen additional programs and amenities in its Grand River Parks beginning in July.

Starting July 10, select Grand River Parks including Brant, Byng Island, Elora Gorge, Guelph Lake, Pinehurst Lake and Rockwood conservation areas will offer limited overnight camping.

To support this, the GRCA camping reservation system will reopen on July 6 at 9:00 a.m. for online bookings only. Conestogo Lake and Laurel Creek conservation areas will not offer overnight camping in 2020. Campers who have previously made reservations at these two parks will be contacted directly regarding their refund.

While more washrooms will open in campgrounds, there will be no shower facilities or group camping available this year.

In addition to governmental and public health guidelines, there are a number of considerations the GRCA is taking into account when making decisions on which programs and amenities it is able to reopen, and the associated timelines. These include health and safety, staffing, managing capacity, enforcement challenges, as well as financial considerations.

Below is an overview of what’s open and closed in Grand River Parks this summer:

Open now         

  • most Grand River Parks (with the exception of the Elora Quarry Conservation Area) are now open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily; gatehouses are open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.       
  •  beaches         
  • some washrooms in day use areas only         
  • Grand River Parks memberships are available for purchase at gatehouses during gatehouse operating hours, as well as online         
  • seasonal boat launch passes are available for purchase at the Belwood Lake and Conestogo Lake gatehouses during operating hours

Opening in July        

  • the camping reservation system will reopen on July 6 at 9 a.m. for online bookings only        
  • overnight camping at Brant, Byng Island, Elora Gorge, Guelph Lake, Pinehurst Lake and Rockwood conservation areas will reopen on July 10         
  • some washrooms in overnight camping areas

Closed for 2020        

  • the Elora Quarry Conservation Area         
  • the splash pad at Elora Gorge Conservation Area         
  • swimming pools at Brant and Byng Island conservation areas         
  • overnight camping at Conestogo Lake and Laurel Creek conservation areas         
  • all showers and change rooms         
  • washrooms in seasonal camping areas        
  • all pavilions, picnic shelters and other group facilities        
  • all playground equipment        
  • all food concession stands        
  • group camping         
  • the Learn to Fish program        
  • the fishing equipment rental program and the life jacket loaner program  

Closed until further notice         

  • boat, canoe and kayak rentals at all conservation areas        
  • tubing at Elora Gorge Conservation Area

A decision regarding these amenities is anticipated by July 10.

Visitors should check for information about which facilities and services are available before visiting Grand River Parks. If visitors have further questions, they are asked to contact the parks directly.

“Our board is aware that people are excited to be able to explore the outdoors at Grand River Parks this summer,” says Helen Jowett, GRCA Chair. “We are pleased to be able to offer more amenities and programs like camping in some of our parks, but activities will still be limited.”

To help protect both staff and visitors, the GRCA is implementing a number of measures to address overcrowding and promote physical distancing in its parks and facilities. This includes limiting the number of daily visitors and camping capacity, and increased patrols. Visitors should be aware that parking is limited, and while garbage receptacles are now available and will be emptied as frequently as possible, people are reminded to visit responsibly and if garbage bins are full, to take their waste with them and dispose of it at home.

Furthermore, Belwood Lake, Conestogo Lake, Elora Gorge, Guelph Lake and Rockwood conservation areas are subject to orders in place by the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Health Unit. All visitors who enter a commercial establishment, including Grand River Park gatehouses and public washrooms in these parks must wear a face covering.

Like many organizations and businesses across Ontario, the GRCA has needed to adapt its operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even where the Province and the local health units permit an activity to occur or facility to open, the GRCA may determine that certain activities will not occur and certain facilities will not open on GRCA properties. As an organization, the GRCA must consider both its ability to meet the government’s public health safety guidelines, as well as the financial feasibility of permitting certain activities and/or opening facilities, when making decisions about which programs and services it is able to provide in 2020.