WESTLOK—Although the Mountie Park Campground in the Town of Westlock has been fully open since June 1, it’s no longer first come first serve but has been switched to a reservation-only site.
Some changes had to be made, explained CAO Simone Wiley at council’s June 8 meeting, since the Spirit Centre, where bookings are usually made, has been closed.
Now, visitors must book their spot online. In addition, there is an $8 fee per booking to cover the additional administrative costs.
For Coun. Randy Wold, the change to a reservation-only spot means new things have to be taken into consideration, like cancellations and refunds.
“There’s a variation of things that I want us to look at and be comparable with our peers,” said Wold.
Among those variations: outright cancellations, change of dates, or how many times a person can change their reservation.
Internally, administration is still ironing out the details on cancellation policies. Wiley clarified they’re discussing a possible 48-hour cancellation policy, and refunding the money is something that “we should consider.”
But for Coun. Murtaza Jamaly, it was important that “there are active other options to booking online,” phoning in being the alternative he’s referring to since the Spirit Centre will be closed until June 29.
“I guess I think about a group of people that are on the road and looking to see where to go next and picking up a phone and happening to book in Westlock by chance,” said Jamaly.
Wold pointed out that Westlock County’s Long Island Lake Campground only accepts online bookings.
Meanwhile, mayor Ralph Leriger thinks moving away from first come, first serve does have the potential to increase visitors to the campground.
“There are many people who aren’t willing to come this way because they don’t want to get a chance of not having a spot. It may very well have the effect of it being more full, I hope so,” said Leriger.
Director of finance Julia Seppola said the town is still incurring a cost whether a person chooses to book online or via the phone, and the bylaw was amended to reflect that the $8 fee applies to all bookings, not just online ones.
Currently, the town doesn’t advertise phoning in as an option for making a reservation, but the website is set up for online bookings.
Weekly rates have also been removed. The town will only charge daily rates moving forward.
Moving reservations online is costing the town $500 annually for the software subscription, which the $8 fee should offset.
Alberta Health recommendations for social distancing also mean that group camping is no longer available at Mountie Park.
Instead, each camp site is limited to one family or cohort of no more than six people, and only individual sites can be reserved – thus, no groups.
As with most other campgrounds across the province, the washroom facilities are not available. Only self-contained camping units are allowed at the park, but small tents for kids can still be set up on the site.