No camping in Ontario's provincial parks, Crown land during stay-at-home order

Crown land camping is free in Ontario. (Photo courtesy: Bradley Bishop)

You can no longer go camping on Crown land and at Ontario's provincial parks during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order.

Ontario Parks announced Friday that during the current COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario, overnight stays including campgrounds, backcountry campsites and roofed accommodations in provincial parks remain closed until further notice.

"We understand this temporary closure of overnight stays in provincial parks may impact your plans, however, the health and well-being of Ontarians is our number one priority," said Ontario Parks on its website.

Ontario Parks remain open for outdoor day-use activities like walking, hiking, biking, birdwatching and fishing. Visit individual park pages for a list of operating days and day-use facilities open.

We continue to ask you to do your part and only visit and enjoy a local provincial park or conservation reserve close to where you live.

Available activities include:
☀️walking/ hiking
☀️biking
☀️bird watching
☀️fishing

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— Ontario Parks (@OntarioParks) April 16, 2021

Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry announced on Twitter that as of 12:01 a.m. on April 16, "recreational camping on Crown land will be prohibited to help stop the spread of COVID-19."

Under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, camping for recreational purposes on public land administered by the ministry is prohibited.

"You also cannot occupy tests or other camping structures, such as trailers, recreational vehicles and watercraft equipped for overnight accommodation," said the ministry on its website.

As of April 16, 12:01 a.m., recreational camping on Crown land will be prohibited to help stop the spread of #COVID19.

Remember to follow the advice of public health officials and stay close to home. https://t.co/o3qVmvbkqf pic.twitter.com/in125b6nmD

— Ontario MNRF (@ONresources) April 15, 2021

The Ontario government's website identifies Crown land as including shore lands and the beds of most lakes and rivers.  About 77 per cent of the province’s land mass is made up of Crown land managed under the Public Lands Act, with an additional 10 per cent Crown land held as provincial parks and conservation reserves.

Recreational activities are still allowed on Crown land, including hiking, biking and fishing.

"I’m literally packed for just a short weekend trip on crown land, and that’s not going to happen now," Martin Pate tells CTV News Ottawa.

Pate is an off-grid camping veteran. He and his wife even have a YouTube channel, devoted to helping beginners start with tips on how to be safe.

He’s disappointed that Crown land camping is closed, but understands the need to do so,

"It’s important that we curtail people travelling. We want people to stay local and if we’re going to close down Ontario Parks so as to discourage people from travelling and coming into contact with people along the way and meeting up with friends on camping trips, it makes sense to shut down Crown land camping as well," said Pate.

He says that’s easy to get lost on Crown land, which potentially puts search and rescue crews at risk.

"Because parks are closed down, people are trying to circumvent the spirit of the lockdown, and say, 'OK, let’s go on crown land,' but, they’re not ready," said Pate. "So, even though there’s no greater exposure to people, even if the person just goes by themselves or their immediate family and not meeting other people, even if they don’t stop along the way - you can get yourself into a very bad situation out there when you’re not an experienced backcountry camper."