Camping at Pine Lake campground on May 17. The Yukon government is considering increasing camping fees in all territorial campgrounds in the coming years. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukon campsite fees could be higher in 2021

The move is part of a new draft strategy for territorial parks

The Yukon government may increase camping fees in territorial parks, according to a draft parks strategy released this week.

“Use of all our park facilities is increasing quite dramatically,” said Jean Langlois, manager of park planning with Environment Yukon. “Average use has doubled in the last 10 years and it’s currently looking like it will double in the next five.”

The idea is to get services on par with demand.

Camping fees haven’t changed since 2002. The draft plan, which was released on Sept. 3, says the Yukon has some of the lowest camping fees in the country.

“The proposed new fee structure improves financial sustainability and still offers some of the most affordable camping in Canada,” it says.

The plan seeks to revamp park operations. Other issues include creating a larger campground near Whitehorse and year-round park use. Operating emerging parks is on the list, too, where areas established in final agreements or land use plans need some final touches like legal designations and management plans.

“It’s at the right time now to look at the next 10 years and for us all as citizens to ask what we want our parks to be,” Langlois said.

The government wants more input. Yukoners are able to submit feedback on the draft plan until Sept. 16.

The final plan is projected to be completed this winter.

The draft plan calls changes to fees “modest.”

If booked online, one night of camping will cost $18 per site, $20 if paid in cash. The current $12 rate has, again, remained the same since 2002.

Other jurisdictions charge $20 to $45 per night, the draft plan says.

No longer would camping be free in May. Fees would apply year-round.

A site reservation fee of $10 is also being considered.

For almost 20 years, residents have paid $50 for annual passes. Seniors go for free. The Yukon government is proposing charging $200 per year for residents, $100 for seniors instead.

“We will continue to study park fees, and adjust them when warranted to ensure ongoing financial sustainability of park services, including accounting for the impacts of inflation on the cost of providing services,” the draft plan says.

Many of the proposed changes are linked to findings of the Yukon Financial Advisory Panel, it says. The Department of Finance reviewed all fees and fines in the territory.

“It found that we are below the national average in most areas and in many instances we lag behind standard cost of living increases,” the draft plan says. “Our goal is to ensure government fees reflect society’s shared values, individual and collective benefits, sustainable program management, cost recovery, a clear connection from fee to service, simplicity, and predictability.”

The Yukon government recovers 10.6 per cent of operating costs through camping fees. The hope is to roughly double this, Langlois said.

The government is considering rolling out an online payment system for campsites. This, the draft plan says, is in effort to reduce the amount of cash handling. It would be cheaper for campers to take this route, an incentive.

Another initiative is establishing a pilot reservation system for the more popular parks.

An “overwhelming majority” of respondents during the public engagement period were in favour of such a system.

“It’s not needed across the board, across the territory year-round,” said Langlois.

He added that not all sites, if this plan goes ahead, would be-reservation only. Some would operate on a first-come-first-served basis.

There are three backcountry campsites in Tombstone Territorial Park that require reservations.

The draft plan follows a public engagement period that ran last year between April and September.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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