A new week brought new headaches for many Manitobans who woke up early hoping to book campsites at provincial parks Monday morning.
After starting a staggered approach to book campsites, cabins and group-use areas at select sites last week, the province opened up a third and final booking phase for all remaining sites at 7 a.m. sharp Monday.
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But an apparent influx in interest in the outdoors this year and reported glitches in the online-booking system led to an hours-long wait for many would-be-campers — and not everyone got the spot they wanted.
“I was hoping that you know, being first in line at seven o’clock, I’d be able to snag something. And, you know, even though I got something, it wasn’t really what I was hoping for,” said Winnipegger Evan Krosney, who was able to book a site for a few weekends at Tulabi Falls, but not as many as he’d hoped for.
Trying to get a camping spot in Manitoba
“I think it would just be good if the province took the steps to improve the website, and, in the long term, look to just get more campsites, really, that’s the core of the issue, is the lack of availability, and that needs to be fixed.”
Under the booking process, hopeful campers like Krosney who log in at 7 a.m. are given a ticket, which is essentially their virtual spot in line. If all goes according to plan, they wait in that spot until they get their chance to book a site.
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But Krosney said the province’s website crashed several times while he waited for his ticket, meaning there were roughly 28,000 people ahead of him by the time he finally got his ticket 45 minutes after the site opened.
It was nearly five hours later by the time he was able to finally make his bookings.
“It was a good chunk of my day that I waited,” he said.
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A provincial spokesperson said the system saw “a large volume of people” logging in and trying to book a spot Monday, and, as of 4 p.m. 27,337 reservations had been made — more than double the 13,316 reservations that were made by the same time last year.
“Staff are doing their best to process booking requests and we appreciate the patience of those trying to log in,” the spokesperson said.
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But the problems reported Monday mirror issues reported both last year and during last week’s booking phases — which provincial data shows some 135,220 nights were booked over the first two opening days.
Long-time camper Amanda Bibeau said it’s time the province look at updating its booking system.
She told Global News her experience with the site Monday was the worst she’s had in all the years she’s spent booking spots at provincial parks.
“Unfortunately it wasn’t just the wait, but I received like multiple connection time-out errors in advance of getting my ticket number, and once I did receive the ticket number, it was like a five-hour wait,” Bibeau said later in the day, after she eventually booked a site at a different park than what she wanted.
“Clearly Manitobans are asking for more outdoor use areas, more family-friendly and affordable options,” she said.
“I think if anything, this can be a lesson learned moving forward, hopefully for our government, that investment needs to be put into our parks, and not just the systems itself, but also just general access for the everyday Manitobans.”
The provincial spokesperson didn’t answer when asked by email if the government plans to make improvements to its online reservation system.
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According to provincial data, there are 4,051 campsites available for reservation at 46 campgrounds across Manitoba, and additional sites can also be booked in person at campgrounds that are not part of the province’s online booking service.
There are also 75 yurts in 10 campgrounds, 34 cabins in two campgrounds, and 91 group-use sites in Manitoba, according to the province.
Trying to get a camping spot in Manitoba
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