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National parks confirm May long weekend camping a no-go

Friday, April 17th 2020, 11:28 am - All reservations up to May 31 are being automatically cancelled with full refunds.

For all the May long weekend dreamers, the hope of national park camping has officially been dashed.

All reservations up to May 31 are being automatically cancelled and Parks Canada won't be taking any new reservations until at least June 1, according to a news release.

RELATED: COVID-19: Is Canada's curve flattening?

All camping facilities are affected by the ban, including backcountry camping, oTENTiks and other roofed accommodations. Cancelled camping reservations will be refunded in full, Parks Canada said.

Parks Canada typically views the May long weekend as the start of the summer season, said Ed Jager, director of visitor experience.

"There's lots of people that want to come to their places and it's sort of a right of passage for them," Jager told CBC on Thursday. "We feel their disappointment."

It may take weeks for people to receive their full refunds as each reservation has to be dealt with individually, he said.

Campfire/CBC There will be no camping in national or Alberta's provincial parks until at least June. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

Canada closed its national parks to visitors on March 25 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Highways through national parks have remained open but all parking facilities and associated services for visitors — including washrooms, day use areas, visitor centres, and mooring — are closed until further notice.

There is no guarantee that parks will reopen in June, Jager said, and when they do reopen it will be done on an incremental basis.

"There's not going to be an instantaneous moment where everything's closed and the next day it's all open," he said. "There's going to be a shift in what is no longer closed and what is open to visitors and can be used."

Alberta's provincial parks and public recreation areas are all under similar restrictions, with vehicle access suspended to parking lots and staging areas on public land and visitor services, such as washrooms, closed.

"The suspension will be in effect until we are confident the health and public safety risk from COVID-19 is reduced," said a notice on the Alberta Parks website. "Albertans should be prepared for these restrictions to still be in place well after the May long weekend."

Online camping reservations at Alberta Parks facilities can still be booked for the summer season.

The story originally appeared on CBC.ca.

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