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Visitor numbers up at territorial parks

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Thursday, August 02, 2007

Territorial parks in the area have been having a busy summer.

Although statistics are still being compiled, Raquel Michaud, manager of parks and tourism for the Dehcho region, said she expects the numbers will show the parks have been busier than last year.

NNSL photo

Berna Sanguez of Jean Marie River sweeps the boardwalk beside the visitor's centre at the Sambaa Deh Falls Park. According to 2006 statistics, the park is the most popular in the Dehcho region. - George Lessard/NNSL photo

Most of the increase is due to two RV tour groups that stayed in the three parks covered by the region including Blackstone, Sambaa Deh Falls and Fort Simpson. The first group included 22 RVs from Quebec and the second had 24 RVs from Ontario.

Tour groups come approximately every other year, said Michaud. The group from Ontario plans to do another trip to the area in 2009.

Members of the groups had lots of positive comments about the parks.

"They said they loved our parks in the Deh Cho region," said Michaud.

Visitors are particularly impressed by how clean the facilities are and how helpful the staff are, she said.

Visitor numbers were also boosted at the Fort Simpson Territorial Park because the Dehcho Annual Assembly was held in the village in June. During the assembly the campsite was almost full.

During the rest of the summer season the busiest periods are the long weekends, said Michaud. Chief among those is the Victoria Day weekend.

"Most people tend to go camping the May long weekend," she said.

On that weekend all 20 sites at the Sambaa Deh Falls Park are usually booked. Inquiries start early and the park is usually full a week ahead of time.

The park is popular with people from Fort Simpson and Hay River because it's centrally located, said Michaud. It's also a good place to go fishing and there are hiking trails.

The parks at Blackstone and Fort Simpson receive their core business from visitors of the Nahanni National Park Reserve, she said. People also stop at the parks while travelling the Deh Cho's highway system.

Yvonne Norwegian can confirm just how full the Fort Simpson campground has been so far this summer.

"It's been busy," said Norwegian who's been working at the park with her husband Douglas Norwegian and son Doug Norwegian Jr. They were awarded the park contract.

When the group of 24 RVs from Ontario was at the park in July, all 32 sites were full and they had to put up a no vacancy sign, said Norwegian. Having a full park was positive because people were visiting and mingling, she said.

Norwegian's no stranger to working at the territorial parks. From 2000 to 2005 she and her husband were part of the staff rotation that managed the Sambaa Deh Falls Park. With 32 campsites in Fort Simpson compared to 20 at Sambaa Deh, Norwegian said there's more work to be done.

"This campsite is a challenge compared to over there," she said.

Norwegian, however, says she enjoys working in the parks.

"You meet all different kinds of people," she said.

Parks and tourism staff for the South Slave region could not be reached.