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Monday, April 23, 2018

Spring has sprung in Ontario's provincial parks

   One-Tank Trip for April 21/18

   By Jim Fox

   Whatever surprises “Mother Nature” and lingering “Old Man Winter” throw at us, Ontario Parks are moving into their spring mode.
   Once the remnants of that mid-April freezing rain, ice pellets, sleet and snow melt away, Ontario’s provincial flower, the white trillium, will burst into bloom in the parks and campers will return after a long, cold winter.
Fields of trilliums will soon be blooming in Ontario Parks. (Jim Fox photo)
   Along with gas prices at near record highs, things look good for a busy season for “staycations” as the provincial parks mark their 125th year.
   The welcome mat will soon be out at the parks not open year-round, with the 330 parks attracting 10-million visitors yearly.
   Ontario’s oldest park is Algonquin, since 1893, and the land mass of all the parks at 82,000 square kilometres is larger than Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island combined.

   Some 100 parks have visitor facilities and services such as day-use areas, campgrounds, trails and interior camping while the others are managed mainly to protect wildlife, plants, natural habitats and spectacular scenery.
   Avoid the dreaded “Campground Full” sign by booking a campsite or cabin early.
   Already by this time of year, more than half the reservations after for the five most popular parks – Algonquin, Bon Echo, Killbear, Pinery and Sandbanks.

Ontario Parks’ campsites will be bustling with the return of the campers. (Barbara Fox photo)
   The great outdoors
   Jeff Brown of Ontario Parks says the sights and sounds of spring can be heard, “breathing new life to the outdoors and as the weather warms up.”
   There are several “ideal spots” for seeing the trilliums as they bloom including the trails at Bronte Creek Provincial Park in Oakville.
   The sounds of spring have returned as “the birds are back including the first wave of songbirds,” Brown said.
   Park visitors can get involved at bird-banding demonstrations, joining a nature photography workshop or signing up for a bird-themed hike with park naturalists.
   Ontario’s wilderness is a lot closer than you think, with “amazing backcountry adventures within a few hours of Toronto,” Brown said.
   Some of these backcountry gems offering peace and solitude include Frontenac Provincial Park with its rocky northern landscape.
   Others in the east are Bon Echo, Charleston Lake, Kawartha Highlands and Murphys Point.

   Go wild for art
   Ontario’s parks have long existed as a wild, natural canvas of inspiration for artists, including the Group of Seven.
   In honour of the 125th anniversary, parks will host programs celebrating their artistic history.
   Family-friendly outdoor painting events will be held July 20 to mark Healthy Parks Healthy People day.
   Visitors can also look forward to paddle painting workshops, outdoor galleries, nature journaling and more.
Go fish! Casting of a dock is a favorite pastime available at many Ontario Parks. (Jim Fox photo)
   Don’t be intimidated: learn to camp as reservations for this year’s program open on May 7.
   There’s a popular program that’s a guided overnight camping experience with all equipment provided.
   New campers learn all the do’s and don’ts of a successful trip, including how to pitch a tent, cook outside and even make the perfect S’mores along with lasting family memories.
   A final thought is don’t be shy, “nature is good for you.”
   “Contact with nature has been found to lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, help prevent disease and reduce stress levels,” Brown said.
   So, enjoy a “dose of nature in one of our parks.”

   If you go
   Get the latest with Ontario Parks on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the Parks Blog. Old school, there’s the website OntarioParks.com
   For reservations: ontarioparks.com/reservations; 1-888-ONT-PARK (668-7275).


Jim Fox can be reached at onetanktrips@hotmail.com
For more One-Tank Trips: http://1tanktrips.blogspot.ca

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