Provincial park getting much-needed upgrade

Jodi
Jodi Schellenberg
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In the summer many Prince Albert residents spend their holidays camping at one of the provincial parks in Saskatchewan.

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It has been a busy year for the parks, with one of them receiving much needed funding to for a major facelift.  

Upgrades to the Narrow Hills Provincial Park were announced on Tuesday, including a new visitor reception centre and more electrified camping spaces.

“The facility that the staff are in now is in a significantly deteriorating state due to its age and construction quality,” said Mary-Anne Wihak, director of visitor experiences. “It doesn’t meet current building codes anymore, as far as accessibility requirements -- it is just an old tired building.”

The building will not just house the administration offices at the park, it will also be a visitor contact centre, the main point of information for customers in the park.

“It is actually going to be called a visitor reception centre,” Wihak said. “There will be some small exhibits or display area for potentially some of the park features -- we haven’t actually decided what the actual content of the exhibits might be but it will act as a bit of an interpretation area as well.”

The other upgrades in the park will give campers more electrified services.

“People want to plug in -- even if they are tenting, a lot of people prefer to have an electrical outlet available, whether it is for their coffee maker or a radio or something like that,” Wihak said.

They will be expanding electricity to 52 more camping sites and updating the electrical to 31 of the already electrified sites.

“In the camping world, the RVs are getting bigger and have more amenities in them like in addition to air conditioning you have you full on outdoor kitchens and things associated with them that there is a lot more need for electricity,” Wihak said. “The old electrical sites aren’t able to keep up with that demand.”

The upgrades will be a huge benefit to campers, who have been heading out to the provincial parks despite the rainy weather in the first part of the summer.

“We had a number of camp sites that were effected by that rain and flooded out and some issues with road associated with some of our campgrounds,” Wihak said. “In most cases we were able to accommodate campers in another campsite within those parks but in some cases campers did chose to go elsewhere, to another provincial park or campground that was in the area.”

The southern part of the province was also hit, with significant flooding due to the rain in late June and early July.

“We had to close Cricket Lake Provincial Park for a period of time, from July 1 to 23,” she said. “That is a little over three weeks that that facility was actually closed completely for camping.

“Those kinds of things are going to when the day is done, could affect our camping numbers for the season,” she added. “We just don’t have enough information right now to tell where we are compared to say where we were last year at this time.”

Other than weather-related problems, the parks are all quite busy.

“We are into our prime season now with great forecasts so we are expecting to have a full house or campground,” Wihak said. “Everything should be on track. You can never plan for it. We wouldn’t have planned for that amount of rainfall and the subsequent lakes rising.

“With this weather upon us now things are certainly looking up as far as campers are concerned,” she added. “I check our Facebook page and people are posting pictures of their wonderful vacations. We are certainly in prime vacation and camping season and fortunately the weather is co-operating at this time.”

There are many events happening in the parks this year, especially with Narrow Hills celebrating its 80th anniversary.

“That is a welcome addition to our summer offering up at that park is some of the activities that have been planned,” Wihak said. “As well, there are still some more announcements to be made this summer in a couple of other parks that folks can expect to hear about in the near future as well.”

Although camping may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, Wihak said they have plenty of other activities to enjoy at the parks.

“Even if you aren’t a camper, you might find something that might interest you to come out for a day or two,” she said. “Not only are there a great variety of outdoor adventures and activities across the park system people can take part in or utilize while they are out there camping, but our beaches are in great shape, there is an extensive trail system across the parks and as well as some other water and land-based activities.”

For more information about provincial park programming, check out their programming schedules on saskparks.net.

Geographic location: Narrow Hills Provincial Park, Cricket Lake

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