On Monday, 13,881 happy — and lucky — campers managed to book a yurt, cabin or Birds Hill campsite at Manitoba's provincial parks when the online reservation system opened at 7 a.m., Conservation Minister Sarah Guillemard told MLAs Tuesday.
Many others — who tried and failed to connect to the system or waited for hours without booking a spot — were disappointed, said NDP critic Lisa Naylor, who raised the issue during question period. The province's reservation system for all cabins, yurts, group use areas and Birds Hill Campground opened Monday for those booking online or by phone.
The provincial government should've prepared for the massive demand this summer for campsites, cabins and especially yurts, Naylor send. Yurts are fabric-sided domed shelters for campers.
"We all saw what happened last year," Naylor said. "We all saw how important it was for people to get outside and get some fresh air," she said. "There were opportunities for the government to prepare for this."
The province could've tried something "creative," like opening yurts a month earlier and leaving them open a month later, Naylor suggested.
"What we're seeing over and over again is this government is simply unprepared," she said.
Guillemard, who didn't scrum with reporters Tuesday, hailed the success of the system when challenged by Naylor during question period.
The minister said the province was able to book 13,881 reservations in a single day — more than twice the number previously booked in a single day.
She said the former NDP government faced complaints about the online reservation system. Now, the demand has soared during the pandemic, and it was not unexpected, she said.
Many Manitobans will rely on a campsite getaway this summer "unless they're rich or lucky enough to have a cottage somewhere to go to," said Naylor. "That's not most Manitobans."
On Wednesday at 7 a.m., reservations for Winnipeg Beach and all campsites in the Whiteshell Provincial Park open. Naylor said she expects a repeat of Monday's online reservation problems.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.