Today’s post comes from Discovery Leader Matt Cunliffe at MacGregor Point Provincial Park.
When the big day arrives, if you’re like me, all you want to do is get to your spot: tent set up, chairs out, feet up.
I have worked for Ontario Parks since 2006 and last year I had the opportunity to manage a gate.
This gave me greater respect for the incredible work our gate staff do and valuable insight into how busy the park can be during check-in hours on a long weekend…or any weekend.
And after a season of answering questions and helping campers, here are some considerations for this year:
1. Obey all signs, including stop signs and operating hours.
Vehicle occupants may literally be excited upon arriving at the park.
It is important to stay alert and obey signs. Parks can be challenging places to drive with other cars, bikes, kids, and wildlife!
There are stop signs located at the entrance doors, so obey them as you would any traffic sign.
These traffic signs are there for everyone’s safety, including yours.
2. Stop, wave, and smile or greet the staff working the doors.
We love meeting our park visitors!
This goes hand in hand with the first point: stopping at stop signs and looking for personnel at the booth or office.
Show your pass or wait to be served. The door staff will wave you through or raise the door arm.
This is the time when gate staff can share important updates or reminders for regular park visitors: what’s blooming, what trails are closed, or if a bear is active.
This is also a great opportunity to ask questions about the park (as long as it’s not a busy day)!
3. Wait patiently if there is a queue
It just means that other people thought it was a good time to visit the park too! Looking for a less busy time? Try before 11:00 a.m. or after 4:00 p.m.
Many parks will also give you capacity updates and great tips on social media; check there before leaving.
At different times of the year, our staffing levels vary. Sometimes not all positions will be staffed or hours will be reduced.
Line up in front of the booths that say “open.” We will be able to assist you once the lane is clear so you can continue. If hours of operation are reduced, use the pay and display machines for your permit.
Annual or seasonal permit holder? We appreciate your support of Ontario Parks and are excited to make your regular visit more affordable for you. However, please remember that seasonal permits do not allow priority (skip the line) access. Wait until the lane is clear before you can continue.
4. Have your seasonal permit, advance daily vehicle permit, or payment option ready
This helps keep the line (if there is one) moving. We have a tap!
If you visit one of the participating parks that offers advanced daily vehicle permits, be sure to follow the instructions in your confirmation email.
If hours of operation are reduced, please follow the payment instructions posted in the park.
Annual or seasonal permit holder? Have your permit in front of the door staff so they can easily identify you.
5. Be friendly and polite to park staff.
We will be happy to provide you with information and explain why some rules exist.
Remember: summer students at the front door don’t make the rules! Our staff is doing everything possible to make your visit (and arrival) pleasant.
6. Research the park and the rules before you arrive.
Don’t always trust word of mouth. Do your own research! Great resources include our website, social media, and local tourism sites.
Pro tip: Dig beyond the initial search result summaries and visit our website. It has the most up-to-date information.
7. A permit is always required
If staff are not present, visitors must still obtain and display a park permit at the checkout machine.
Please know that entrance fees help support the park’s ongoing operations and Ontario Parks’ conservation efforts for future generations.
Myth: Your friends may tell you that admission is free if you arrive within an hour of closing or if there is no one at that front door. This is false.
We are very happy to welcome you!
When you arrive at a provincial park this year, remember that all of our staff are always doing everything they can to help you.
If you don’t know something, ask!
Our staff works in the parks because they love them as much as our visitors do. We’re always happy to share information about our parks and love answering campers’ questions and hearing about their experiences (just try to save those stories for when there isn’t a list).
It’s going to be another busy season, so please, be patient if they catch him in a row.
Our staff takes pride in moving quickly to get you to the park so you can connect with nature and make your own discoveries.