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Ontario offering one-day free access to provincial parks next week

Sandbanks Provincial Park in Picton, Ont. (Kimberley Johnson / CTV News Ottawa) Sandbanks Provincial Park in Picton, Ont. (Kimberley Johnson / CTV News Ottawa)
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Ontario is offering free one-day access to provincial parks next Friday.

The initiative, announced in conjunction with Healthy Parks Healthy People Day, will grant visitors day permits to the provincial park network without admission. Usually, fees range from $9 to $21 per vehicle.

“I invite all Ontarians to take advantage of this free pass to Ontario Parks, an opportunity to immerse yourselves in the joy and wonder of exploring the great outdoors,” Andrea Khanjin, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, said in a release issued Monday. “Whether you’re looking to get some exercise or seeking a fun and affordable day with your family, I hope this free day will give more people the opportunity to explore everything that their local provincial park has to offer.”

The option to reserve day-use permits ahead of time at Ontario provincial parks was rolled out during the pandemic as a means to increase access to outdoor spaces. It was also meant to prevent people from driving to a park only to find out they were at capacity, the province said.

Residents can pre-book day trips online up to five days in advance using the same booking system for campsites. As of 2024, the program included 76 of Ontario’s most popular provincial parks.

Uxbridge Urban Provincial Park in Durham Region, opened to the public on Canada Day, is the newest day-use park to be established under the Provincial Parks Act. The park is still in the early stages of development, the province said in June, and currently there are “no facilities or services offered at the site" and parking is limited. Still, visitors have been granted access to an existing network of trails on the more than 1,300 acres of land.

In its release, the Ministry of Environment said it plans to build 300 new campsites in provincial parks. It also committed to providing electrical services to more than 800 existing sites.

Correction

We have corrected this story to reflect that free access to Ontario provincial parks will take place on July 19.

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