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Camping at national park and historic site to resume in May
After being closed for the entire 2020 season, new infrastructure awaits visitors to the Kejimkujik National Park and Historic Site’s Jeremy’s Bay Campground.
Jonathan Sheppard, site superintendent for the Kejimkujik National Park and Historic Site, said although most of the investment may be invisible to visitors, the renovation project represents a comprehensive renewal of the infrastructure facilities at Jeremy’s Bay, the only campground at Keji.
“The purpose of the work really is to make sure that we’re sustaining the ability for people to come and experience Kejimkujik,” he said.
The renovations at Jeremy’s Bay are part of a larger investment the federal government has been making in Parks Canada infrastructure during the past five years.
Sheppard said they’re increasing the quality and reliability of facilities so people can continue to connect with the reason for their visit to Kejimkujik: the outstanding nature and cultural landscape.
The scope included tearing down the old washroom facilities and the construction of 10 new universally accessible and gender-neutral washrooms and shower buildings. The old washrooms were built in the late 1960s and had outlived their useful lifespan.
Sheppard said the new washrooms increase personal privacy, safety, and security. They feature enclosed “water closets” within a common open area opposed to stalls.
He said this is much better suited to meeting the needs of changing demographics including families, the aging population and recognizing people who identify across the gender spectrum and who come from various cultural groups.
Sheppard said Parks Canada is placing a high priority on diversity and inclusion. In addition to being socially progressive, the buildings are also environmentally advanced.
They’re designed for efficiency, low maintenance and a lifespan of half a century or greater. Sheppard said they’re also working toward a solar power supply to offset electricity consumption.
Sheppard said they conduct visitor surveys and one common complaint from visitors has been the condition of the washrooms and the location of the showers. The renovation project responds to these concerns head-on.
He said Kejimkujik is recognized by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada as a Dark Sky Preserve with some of the best quality night sky viewing in eastern North America. Because of this, the new washrooms are “dark sky compliant,” meaning they have been lit in a carefully designed way to prevent light pollution.
Water, wastewater upgrades
The $10-million project also included an overhaul of the wastewater management facility and a new water treatment facility.
Sheppard said when the campground is full, there can be between 1,500 and 2,000 people there, so a municipal-scale water treatment plant has been built. Upgrades have been made to the sewage lagoons and eight septic lift stations have been replaced.
He said undertaking a large construction project such as this during a pandemic wasn’t easy but they had a great general contractor, Roscoe Construction of Cambridge, Kings County. Parks Canada worked closely with them to ensure the necessary provincial health protocols were in place for the safety of both Roscoe and Parks Canada staff.
“That said, there were delays that weren’t anybody’s fault related to things that everybody in the industry were dealing with in terms of supply chain issues, for example,” Sheppard said.
Kejimkujik is a Mi’kmaq cultural landscape. Sheppard said they’ve been working closely with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia through the renovation project, particularly with issues relating to archaeology. He said this has been a great partnership.
“When we’re doing infrastructure work, we need to do archaeology to assess and make sure we’re not damaging any cultural resources that are unknown and under the ground,” Sheppard said.
Mitigating closure’s impact
Although Jeremy’s Bay Campground was closed for the entire 2020 season to allow for the construction, the rest of the Kejimkujik National Park and Historic Site remained open.
Sheppard pointed out that COVID-19 has been very hard on the regional tourism industry. Some of the measures they put in place to help manage the campground closure ended up being overshadowed or overwhelmed by the pandemic.
However, they worked closely with area business groups, the Nova Scotia tourism industry, provincial parks and campgrounds and other local tourism service providers in a co-ordinated approach to mitigate the economic impact of the Jeremy’s Bay closure.
Sheppard said they’ve also been working with the Region of Queens Municipality and the area board of trade to build the notion that the northern Queens area could grow and develop into a gateway experience and service hub for visitors to Kejimkujik. He described the park as “an anchor of the southwest Nova Scotia tourism economy.”
Make a reservation
Camping at Kejimkujik opens for the season on the Victoria Day long weekend in May. Sheppard said finishing touches to the new construction would be completed before visitors arrive.
Visitors can make reservations for the Jeremy’s Bay Campground for the 2021 season starting April 23. To make a reservation at that time, visit the Parks Canada Reservation Service online or call 1-877-737-3783.