Park Gets Ready

Wiarton Echo - - FRONT PAGE - Zoe Kessler Ed­i­tor

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.”

Photo pro­vided by Parks Canada

The Vis­i­tor Cen­tre in Tober­mory pro­vides ed­u­ca­tion and in­for­ma­tion for the many visi­tors to the Bruce Penin­sula Na­tional Park.

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