Hot, dry summer keeps Fort Rodd Hill vacation cabins open longer

The long, dry summer may have banned campfires, but B.C. residents are nonetheless loving the great outdoors — and filling up Vancouver Island’s government-run campsites.

“We’ve been getting a lot of interest from visitors wanting to make September reservations for our cabins at Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site,” said Laura Judson, spokeswoman for Parks Canada.

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The demand has prompted Parks Canada to keep the site’s cabins open until Oct. 1, instead of closing them Labour Day as planned.

“Every day, we’re having people ask if they can come out in September,” she said. “We’re surprised that people are still planning those getaways this time of year, even into September.”

The Canadian Tire at View Royal is seeing strong sales in camping gear, something store owner Kim Reynhoudt attributes to staycations. “I think people want to enjoy their vacation but not have to spend much money.”

An average family can get in basic sleeping bags and a tent for $200, he said.

It doesn’t hurt that the summer has been warm and dry but cool at night — perfect camping weather.

And cooler weather in recent days means campfires will once again be allowed in Island parks. The Ministry of Forests said the campfire ban in the Coastal Fire Centre will be lifted at noon today.

For those who don’t want the bother of lugging out gear and setting up, Parks Canada this year offered “equipped campsites.”

The campground at Green Point on Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park has had solid bookings of three of the sites, which are available at about twice the price of a regular campsite.

“Families love to arrive and find their campsite with a tent, mattress pads, tarp, lantern, and propane cooking stove already set up,” Judson said. “They only need to round up some bedding, kitchenware and food from home.”

For occasional campers, the campsites can be real cost-savers, Judson said, as they don’t need to invest in their own camping gear.

The popularity of camping in B.C. seems to be stronger than ever. “It’s so neat to see people extending their summers,” she said.

B.C. Parks reports the number of reservations for campsites in its parks is up by 11 per cent over last year. B.C. parks stop taking reservations for most parks after the Labour Day long weekend, when demand typically falls off.

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

With a file from The Canadian Press

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