Discovery Wildlife Park zookeeper Serena Bos holds a three-month-old female Kodiak brown bear. The Innisfail park recently opened to visitors with drive-thru tours.

Uncertainty clouds summer holiday plans for central Albertans

People ‘itching to get out’ should be patient, says tourism director

Summer’s coming — and so is the 2020 vacation season.

But many central Albertans are stumped about how to spend their holiday time.

A stay-cation is the obvious choice, considering international travel is still a no go, the U.S. border remains closed, and all non-essential travel between provinces is being discouraged to restrict the spread of COVID-19.

But even local recreational opportunities are limited by the closure of the Discovery Canyon waterpark, pools, smaller museums and other regional attractions.

“Some people are itching to get out and we’re just encouraging them to be patient,” said Rene Rondeau, executive director of Tourism Red Deer.

He noted many restaurants and area campgrounds have already reopened, while more tourism-based businesses are poised to welcome back customers after the province’s Stage 2 recovery, expected June 19.

A date for Alberta’s full reopening in Stage 3 — allowing for the operation of local recreation centres and Discovery Canyon — is yet undetermined, and to be based on the success of the first two stages.

Some area attractions are, meanwhile, figuring out new ways to operate.

Innisfail’s Discovery Wildlife Park is offering vehicle tours, while Drumheller’s Royal Tyrrell Museum is selling timed ticket admissions that allow 150 people in at a time.

Tourism Red Deer is working with its members to compile a listing of what else is available in the area. Rondeau said this information will be posted to the website and released through social media.

Considering all the uncertainty, the best bet these days is phoning ahead before visiting a region to ensure that visitors are welcome and can be accommodated, he said.

While Sylvan Lake is not actively seeking tourists yet — “we are asking them to visit us later,” said the town’s communications co-ordinator, Joanne Gaudet — the municipality is preparing to see some inevitable beach-goers as the weather warms.

Gaudet noted public washrooms were recently reopened, and the parking lots across from the beach are expected to open later this month, after the government’s Stage 2 announcement.

Bylaws officers are already patrolling to help ensure two metres of space is maintained between parties.

Gaudet estimates Sylvan Lake’s beach was at about 70 per cent capacity during Saturday’s 27 C, with people generally keeping a safe distance from other groups.

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