Nestled on the shores of Upper Campbell Lake west of Campbell River, Strathcona Park Lodge has been both a getaway retreat and an outdoor classroom since 1959.

From March to November it’s usually booked solid with school trips and couple’s weekends.

The water is usually busy with visitors but this year, due to COVID-19 the kayaks and canoes haven’t left their racks.

“It’s a very unusual spring for us because normally we’d have 160 school kids here during the Monday to Friday period,” said Strathcona Park Lodge Owner Christine Clarke. “We’d have 24 instructors working and they would be doing a week-long program of rock climbing, ropes course, canoeing, kayaking and more.”

But there is some good news for the lodge that is still seeing cancellations into 2021. The wilderness lodge which is just a few kilometres from the entrance to Strathcona Provincial Park on Highway 28 plans to open 13 of its waterfront cottages this weekend to coincide with the re-opening of provincial parks for day use.

“I think it’s really a hopeful thing that people can start exploring the outdoors again in their local communities on Vancouver Island and if people would come to us and look at the stars, and paddle a canoe and jump in the cold lake and go see the waterfalls it would be great,” added Clarke.

No off-island reservations will be accepted and the restaurant will remain closed.

“It’s not a high traffic use area so it is a very good place for people to come and not feel like they’re in crowds at all,” said Clarke.

Meanwhile, the whale watching industry has been hit hard by COVID-19. Mother’s Day would normally have been the start of the busy season for operators.

“We’ve suffered you know as an industry, hundred of thousands of dollars in revenue loss,” said Bill Coltart of Big Animal Encounters in Campbell River.

Whale watchers are working on a reopening plan they hope to present to BC health officials around June 1.

“We certainly hope that families who have been cooped up for the last couple of months are looking to get out on the water and have some excitement and explore locally this summer,” Coltart added.

He hopes the plan will be signed off by health officials in mid-June allowing whale watching operators to re-open at that time.

Dean Stoltz