The Manitoba government says it's made improvement's to the province's online campground reservation system but the opposition predicts Manitobans will once again be left camping out online for hours trying to book a space.

Reservations for Manitoba’s provincial park campgrounds, yurts, cabins and group-use areas will begin on April 4 with expanded staggered launch dates and technical improvements for easier site bookings, Environment, Climate and Parks Minister Jeff Wharton announced on Monday.

“Manitoba is home to 92 provincial parks, where every year Manitobans and visitors come to enjoy the spectacular beauty our province has to offer,” says Wharton. “Our government understands that having easily accessible operations of the parks reservation service is part of the experience and we have implemented short-term changes to help improve this year’s bookings. We want to thank visitors for their patience as we work diligently on implementing a new reservation system for future seasons.”

The province says that it continues to implement a new system they hope to have in place by 2023. In the meantime, they've implemented improvements "to address challenges users have experienced in previous years."

That includes additional computing resources added to increase system performance; improvements to increase stability of the queue and reduce the likelihood of users losing their place in line; and immediate confirmations at time of booking provided by web page messaging with a confirmation email sent within 24 hours to help speed up performance of the service.

The NDP says the improvements are not enough, however.

"Yet another year has gone by in which the PCs refused to substantially fix or replace this system, meaning families will once again have to spend hours trying to book a camping space," NDP MLA and Environment critic, Lisa Naylor says.

"The PCs need to invest in a public reservation system that is accessible, affordable and headache-free."

In addition, the province has scheduled two additional launch days to help spread out the user load on the system. Instead of three launch days, initial bookings will be staggered across five days.

The Manitoba parks reservation service will accept bookings in five phases:

  • April 4 at 7 a.m. for all cabins, yurts and group-use areas;
  • April 6 at 7 a.m. for campsite reservations at Birds Hill, Falcon Beach, Falcon Lakeshore and West Hawk Lake;
  • April 8 at 7 a.m. for campsite reservations at all western and northern region parks (Asessippi, Bakers Narrows, Clearwater Lake, Duck Mountain, Manipogo, Paint Lake, Rainbow Beach, Rivers, Spruce Woods, Turtle Mountain, William Lake and Wekusko Falls);
  • April 11 at 7 a.m. for campsite reservations at Grand Beach, Nopiming and all remaining Whiteshell campgrounds (Caddy Lake, Big Whiteshell, Brereton Lake, Nutimik Lake, Opapiskaw, Otter Falls, Betula Lake and White Lake); and
  • April 13 at 7 a.m. for all remaining locations (Birch Point, Camp Morton, Hecla, Hnausa Beach, Lundar Beach, Moose Lake, St. Malo, Stephenfield, Watchorn and Winnipeg Beach).

Other significant changes include maximum stay times in a cabin or yurt being reduced to seven nights from 14. Cabins, yurts and group-use areas will be limited to two reservations per session on opening day, down from three. The number of campsite reservations remains at three per session on opening days.

The province says that users may still experience wait times despite the improvements.

While short-term changes have been made to help improve this year’s opening day booking experience, users may continue to experience system delays or wait times. To accommodate the expected high demand on April 4, online and call centre services will begin at 7 a.m. at , 204-948-3333 (in Winnipeg) and 1 888-482-2267 (toll free). Customers are advised to check the website for call centre hours on other days and those making online reservations should confirm their user IDs and passwords prior to April 1. While online or call centre reservations are preferred, walk-in reservations and in-person payment arrangements can be made at 200 Saulteaux Cres. in Winnipeg and will be available beginning April 4 Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Wharton says that the Manitoba government continues to focus on provincial parks as a priority for continued future investment in parks programming, services and infrastructure to modernize and enhance future park experiences for all Manitobans.