Park Gets Ready
In anticipation of another busy season at Bruce Peninsula National Park in Tobermory, staff will be implementing some new strategies to help things run more smoothly and enhance visitor experience in 2017.
In an interview earlier this year John Haselmayer, acting park superintendent, told Postmedia reporter Rob Gowan this year’s free 2017 Discovery Pass to all of Canada’s national parks will simply mean more of the same for Tobermory’s popular visitor destination, home to the iconic Grotto.
“We’re not in the business of trying to squeeze more people in, but we are trying to better manage the visitors that are coming,” Haselmayer said in an interview Jan. 25 with the Wiarton Echo.
With an average of 505 cars per day being turned away last July and August, Haselmayer said, “We are trying to better manage the visitors that are coming and better manage the experience of being turned away.”
This year’s approach will be multi-pronged, including giving would-be visitors “useful and timely information so they can have a better experience elsewhere,” Haselmayer said.
“One of the most important initiatives that we know will help at the Grotto is time slot parking – timed parking as opposed to the old system where you show up in the morning at the Grotto and if you get there early enough you get a spot, and if you don’t – you’re not one of the first 150 people at the gate – you get turned away,” he said.
In the past, would-be visitors returned multiple times a day, Haselmayer said.
This summer, different time slots will be available throughout the day so people can book a time to park when they arrive rather than just taking their chances on a return visit.
“This will improve congestion and turnover,” Haselmayer said.
To support the new parking structure, he said, a control gate will be installed to “make sure people aren’t going in when they shouldn’t.”
The Bruce Peninsula park has been turning people away from the Grotto for five years now – due to its operating at capacity Haselmayer said. Some of the strategies being used in 2017 were initiated last year, he said, including hiring a security firm to “ensure compliance with rules and regulations in the park,” such as quiet hour and alcohol policies and to direct traffic at the most congested locations.
This year’s front line staff will also be bumped up in number, as will staffing of the trails where visitors will be reminded of the rules and provided with helpful information and answers to their questions.
A new initiative this year will be the reconfiguration of the park’s parking lots and campsites.
A 50-car parking lot – the former P2 lot – will be relocated to improve efficiency of tourist management and “provide a better experience for the visitor,” Haselmayer said.
The parking lot previously provided overflow for day use parking – but also added an extra 20-minute walk through campgrounds to get to the Grotto, which mixed day visitors and campers, Haselmayer said.
This year, the former P2 parking will be moved to where Group Campsite 2 was – which means the park will only be offering one group campsite in 2017.
The fate of P2 and the long-term plan for Group Campsite 2 has yet to be finally decided, Haselmayer said, adding the move is part of “a larger long-term renewal of our whole campground.
“We have various ideas of configuring group campsites into pods for their use to be more flexible,” he said. “We’re looking at a major redesign of our campground.”
Part of this change is in response to the demographics of park visitors, he said, which is changing to include more families, more groups of people travelling together, larger groups of younger people travelling together and multifamily groups.
“We’re trying to respond to changes,” he said, emphasizing “the specifics haven’t been nailed down.”
The Visitor Centre in Tobermory provides education and information for the many visitors to the Bruce Peninsula National Park.