LONDON, ONT. -- The grass is being cut and sites readied at many overnight camping parks in Southern Ontario.

Of course, with the approaching May long weekend, you would normally expect that to be the case. But, as we all know, things are still far from ‘normal.'

Yet, a date on the calendar is circled at the parks.

“We are hoping to open all of our camping facilities on June 3. So, that includes seasonal campers, overnight campers, as well as our back-country camping as well,” states Steve Sauder at London’s Fanshawe Conservation Area.

Sauder, who represents the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA), says staff are eagerly anticipating the return of trailers.

Already seasonal units have begun to arrive at the park. They are permitted for set-up only.

Joel Steele, of Great Escape RV, has been hauling seasonal trailers to area campgrounds for the past three weeks.

Steele says the pandemic has not hurt business, as more and more people buy new and used trailers.

“I find this is the vacation option that everybody has right now with the restricted travel limits and other limitations.”

While overnight camping is not permitted yet at Fanshawe or at two other UTRCA facilities, Pittock and Wildwood, some conservation authorities and private sites have allowed seasonal campers to stay overnight with restrictions.

It has made Steele’s job a challenge.

“So far some are open to seasonal, some aren’t open at all. We are just allowed to get in, set-up the trailer, and then get right out of the park.”

Among those permitting seasonal campers, with restrictions, are Kettle Creek Conservation Authority, which operates Dalewood Conservation area near St. Thomas and the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority.

For those not holding one of those sites, there are still options.

Both Ontario Parks and Parks Canada have taken bookings for later in the summer, with the caveat that pandemic restrictions may force cancellations and refunds. It is the same policy at UTRCA.

But that has not stopped bookings from filling up, especially on weekends.

Still, if you are among those who waited, Sauder suggests weeknight camping.

“If people are thinking about getting out and making a reservation, weeknights is a way to go. Some people even camp and work at the same time.”

While overnight camping will not begin until the third, some camping areas are beginning to offer other services.

At UTRCA, for example, the park gates will open Friday. On the downside for users, that means fees will be charged.

On the upside, those fees will include more options including, for the first time this year, kayaks, canoes and some motorized boating at Wildwood and Fanshawe.

“At Fanshawe you will be able to have your small motorboat. Anything with a 9.9 horsepower motor and less, that will be allowed. That will be good news for people that enjoy fishing,” Sauder concludes.