The pandemic may have put a halt to the travel plans of many this summer, but some of them found a gem of a destination right in their backyard.
Kaitlyn Gifford describes her first year as Administrator of the Outlook & District Regional Park as hectic, but very educational, and feels some seeds were planted this year that will result in good things for next year. “We welcomed many campers from the surrounding area who were ‘stay-cationing’ at our Park for the first time,” she said, “and a lot of them have told us that they plan to come back next year!”
COVID-19 had an impact on how the Park could open for the season, including being allowed to operate at only 50% initially, but some of those restrictions were lifted as the summer went along. “The park fared pretty well once we were able to operate at full-capacity,” Kaitlyn remarked. “I feel like the season was a success overall. The weather cooperated in July and August, and most weekends in those months the Park was almost full or full.”
Though the plan had been to host special activities throughout the summer, COVID-19 made that difficult, so it was pretty exciting when they finally got the chance to host a movie night on Labour Day weekend. “The highlight for me was holding the ‘Movie Night in the Park’,” Kaitlyn said. “The weather was great, the show was awesome and people showed up, which was fabulous. I really look forward to hosting more events like this in the future, whether it be movies or music. It is just great seeing people down in ‘the bowl’.”
Since starting as Administrator in December 2019 Kaitlyn has had eventful months to look back on. “I have learned a lot this year,” she remarked. “With it being my first year working at the Park, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect – but with the COVID situation, it made the season an even steeper learning curve.” But she said the Park provided a great respite for everyone. “I guess I learned that everyone who comes to the Park is looking to relax and enjoy their time here. The Park is a great place to forget about the worries of the world for a bit, indulge in the views and surrounding nature, and enjoy each other’s company, especially during a pandemic.”
There are still a few campers in the Park so the season has not come to a close quite yet. But even beyond the camping season, people are invited to continue using the Park, including attending a special Hallowe’en event. “We are currently planning a ‘Haunted Walk Through the Woods’ to celebrate Halloween,” Kaitlyn explained. “It will be a social-distance friendly, decorated walk through the Park with candy loot bags for everyone who attends.” Local businesses and groups are invited to participate as well. Tickets will be free, but required, so watch for more information. The event will also benefit another organization in town since the plan is to collect food for the Food Bank in lieu of ticket sales or park entry fees.
Even as campers continue to enjoy these temperate days, Kaitlyn is looking ahead to next season. “We are looking forward to a great year in 2021. I predict a lot of family reunions next year. We had many big groups from two and three provinces away for reunions who had to cancel. I hope by next year the situation is better and everyone can get together.”
Before we know it, it will be time for camping and outdoor enthusiasts to begin making plans. Kaitlyn shared, “We will be busy planning for the upcoming season in hopes that next year can start off better than ever. Mark your calendars for January 11th, that’s when we will start taking bookings for the 2021 season!"