By Chad Ingram
Rental revenue from camping sites in Algonquin Highlands’ Haliburton Highlands Water Trails remains up over last year, despite being closed for several weeks earlier in the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The township re-opened its water trails campsites in mid-June and since then, has experienced a boom in demand. A report from parks, rec and trails manager Chris Card that Algonquin Highlands councillors received during a Sept. 17 council meeting showed that for the month of August, revenue was nearly $69,000, a 28 per cent increase from approximately $52,000 in August of 2019. As of the end of the August, water trails revenue for the year was more than $312,000, a six per cent increase over approximately $295,000 that had been collected at the same point last year.
“We continue to have one of the busiest years on record,” Card told councillors.
“Do you anticipate the water trails revenue and bookings will move into the fall, and secondarily, what do you think the impact will be on winter activities, seeing as more and more people are choosing the outdoors these days?” asked Mayor Carol Moffatt.
“If the trend continues, we can expect that, yes,” Card said. “The trend of very busy parks is something that’s common across the country. Many people during this pandemic are staying at parks closer to home, likely people who may otherwise have travelled abroad or outside of the country or other parts of the province are utilizing park spaces closer to home, that they weren’t doing before. So, we could expect that busyness is going to go into the fall, and the winter, ski trail activities, hopefully.”
Councillor Jennifer Dailloux wondered if continued increased demand would create a need for enhanced staffing.
“If it is deemed that next year, numbers are going to remain high, for whatever reason, do you think that your department has adequate resources, staffing, etc., to meet that need, or would we be looking at something new in the budget, potentially?” Dailloux asked.
“It is something I’ve been looking at and I would like to put something together for council’s consideration,” Card said. “With the high level of attendance this year, it has been a significant challenge for staff to keep up. We’re also noticing that many of the visitors that are new to the area are also just getting into the activity of backcountry camping, and as such, there’s just a little bit more time required between staff, a lot more questions to be answered, and some more followup with things. So, it has put a strain on us from a staffing perspective and council could expect to see at least some sort of consideration around that for next year.”
“Certainly, if people are wanting to take advantage of the opportunities that we offer, then we should be prepared for them, so that’s good to know,” said Moffatt.