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Test campsite reservation system coming to Yukon’s government-run campgrounds

Territorial government intends to pilot online bookings for some spots beginning in summer 2024
A campfire burns at Kusawa Campground. The Yukon government will pilot an online campground reservation system for booking campsites beginning in summer 2024. Dana Hatherly / Yukon News photo

The Yukon government will test an online campground reservation system for booking campsites starting next year.

An information note, prepared on March 1 for Environment Minister Nils Clarke and obtained by the Yukon News under access-to-information laws, indicates the two-year pilot project is planned for the summer of 2024 and 2025.

In a phone interview on Aug. 17, communications analyst Jake Wilson confirmed the plan to roll out the pilot is on track. However, he had few specific details regarding how it will work, the number of sites that will be open for reservation and which campgrounds will be involved.

“We’ve identified a successful contractor to help develop the online system,” Wilson said.

“Most Yukoners were in favour of testing a campground reservation system in the territory,” he said.

“I also think that this reservation system will help kind of mitigate potentially some of those issues with folks, you know, claiming sites and not being there.”

Forty-two road-accessible campgrounds across the Yukon are currently available on a first-come, first-served basis. According to the government’s rules, no one is allowed to register or hold sites for people who are not present. The News has witnessed a park ranger enforcing the rules at Kusawa Campground, for example.

Per the information note, the intention of a reservation system is to offer certainty to campers who are looking for a spot. It’s intended to streamline operations by reducing cash transactions and automating data gathering.

Wilson reiterated the move is part of a commitment to the Yukon Parks Strategy, a 10-year plan for parks completed in 2020.

“To meet the needs of users who prefer certainty and those who prefer spontaneity, our intention is to offer some campsites for online reservations and others to be available on a first-come, first-served basis,” the plan reads. It notes that a reservation scheme covering all campsites in the territory is not needed and would be “prohibitively expensive.”

A spring 2023 session briefing note prepared for Clarke indicates that during the public engagement on the plan, Yukoners expressed they wanted some campsites to be secured by reserving online.

The Yukon government’s “what we heard” report on the parks plan suggests that more than half of respondents supported testing campground reservations.

“There is desire to be able to make online campsite reservations for road-accessible front-country campgrounds. This is common in other parks systems around the world. Users value the certainty of knowing they will have a campsite when they arrive,” reads the report.

“Other users value the spontaneity of being able to go camping without having to reserve in advance. Some expressed concerns about mass bookings.”

The briefing note says the Yukon government is committed to the pilot in order to make access to campsites fairer.

“We are striving to meet the needs and expectations of our valued visitors as our parks system and user volume increases in the Yukon,” reads the briefing note.

The pilot is expected to start at four locations based on various factors such as campground demand and user visitation, the number of campsites per campground and other operational requirements.

“If this pilot proves to be successful, we hope to expand the service to other campgrounds,” the briefing note states.

Tombstone Territorial Park’s three back-country campgrounds already require reservations. The park plan indicates the tool has been helpful in managing the availability of tent sites that are in high demand.

The proposal request went out in the fall of 2022, and the software contract was anticipated to be awarded in April. If the first year of the pilot project works out, then a management board submission will be prepared to seek support for making the reservation system permanent beginning in 2026.

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Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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