Smoother camping reservation system thrills Manitoba outdoor enthusiasts

Outdoor enthusiasts got their first shot at trying out Manitoba’s new online camping reservation system Monday morning. It promised a smoother booking experience for places like cabins and yurts along with reduced wait times.

Still, not everyone left with what they wanted.

Bill Stewart, one of the lucky ones, has fond memories of camping each season, connecting with his family away from the hustle and bustle of Winnipeg and sitting by a crackling fire under the stars.

This year, he made sure they wouldn’t miss out on their summer getaway.

“We were on there right at 7 a.m. I think when we logged in, my wife was on her iPad. I was on my computer. We have multiple screens open because we’ve done this enough that we know how complicated it can be,” Stewart said.

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Thousands of other hopefuls had clocked in ahead of them, but to Stewart’s surprise, they booked a yurt for the dates they wanted.

“We watched the number march down, and we were in and out within 10 minutes,” he said — a satisfying outcome after years of navigating a difficult system.

“There was a lot of tension … leading up to it the last few years because it’s sort of like a horse race. You’re trying to get in there and access it.”

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Manitoba Minister of Natural Resources and Northern Development, Greg Nesbitt, says it was the smoother rollout the province had hoped for.

“By 7:13 a.m., the queue was cleared, which was basically a half an hour sooner than last year, and by 7:30, we had 3,700 reservations,” Nesbitt told Global News Monday.

But some Manitobans’ dreams of securing a yurt this season were dashed.

Nesbitt said the province is committed to increasing its inventory of campsites and yurts as part of its new parks strategy — some of the recommendations made in last year’s report commissioned by Travel Manitoba to welcome more visitors.

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“We know there are hidden resources here in Manitoba. They’re great, you know, they’re great for tourism, and we’re looking to capitalize on the natural infrastructure we have here in Manitoba,” Nesbitt said.

The $100 million in Budget 2023 earmarked for parks over the next 10 years will help with improvements, and an announcement outlining a detailed plan is forthcoming later in April, he said.

In response to criticism Manitoba isn’t doing enough to protect its parks, he said he believes they can co-exist with things like mineral exploration.

“We certainly believe that, you know, we want to protect parks, but we also understand that mineral extraction can be done in a way that doesn’t disturb the surroundings and can be done in an environmentally sensitive way to ensure that we don’t damage our parks.”

For Stewart, he said he hopes the province’s strategy includes better site maintenance.

“Sometimes you’ll go there, and some of the picnic tables and things like that need a lot of repairs, and I know that those things cost money, but there are more and more people accessing the parks.”

“Some things like that would be probably a good idea, so that … the experience of the park is a little more positive.”

In any case, he’s thrilled his September plans for Nutimik Lake are officially in the books.

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“This year was just so much simpler.”

Click to play video: 'Province launches new Parks Reservation System'

Province launches new Parks Reservation System

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