Those heading into Kootenay National Park this summer will have a new accommodation option, as Parks Canada is debuting 10 oTENTiks sites at the Redstreak Campground near Radium Hot Springs.
OTENTiks are a cross between a prospector’s tent and a cabin. The 19-foot by 24-foot structures have wooden frames and canvas walls, locking doors, windows, tables, chairs and will be able to sleep six people in various sizes of beds.
Parks Canada plans to put in hundreds of oTENTiks sites in National Parks across the country in next few years, including ten each in Banff, Jasper and Kootenay. The ten in Kootenay National Park should be ready to go in mid-July, according to Judy Glowinski, a Parks Canada product development specialist based in Banff.
“Some of the traditional groups are not coming any more,” said Ms. Glowinski. “We recognize that Canadians are changing and so we need to meet their needs and expectations.”
The oTENTiks are part of Parks Canada’s attempt to attract urbanites, younger people, new Canadians (those who have moved to Canada from elsewhere) and campers who want an extra degree of comfort and convenience, said Ms. Glowinski.
Many Canadian baby boomers, who are approaching or already in their retirement years, grew up enjoying camping, but these days are not interested in sleeping on the ground, she said.
Quite a few new Canadians have little or no previous exposure to camping and Parks Canada has researched how to win over this new audience, said Ms. Glowinski.
“We’re well aware we need new products to attract new Canadians,” she said. “We’ve learned a lot about what’s required and what their concerns are.”
People staying in the oTENTiks can rent gear and buy all their provisions from stores or outfitters in the park or nearby. The oTENTiks in Kootenay National Park are rustic, according to Ms. Glowinski — they will have no electricity, heating or outdoor barbeques (though the ones in Banff will).
Renting a Redstreak oTENTik for a night will cost $145, while one in Banff will cost $150. People staying in an oTENTik will be expected to treat it like a tent and not cook, eat or store food in it.
Some people have suggested that comforts of oTENTiks might be a bit over the top in a national park setting, added Ms. Glowinski.
“There’s somewhat of a debate, depending on what your idea of a camping experience in a national park is,” she said. “Some say ‘I don’t know if this is camping to me’.”
But there are still plenty of traditional campgrounds in the parks, she said.
Kootenay National Park saw 427,128 visitors in 2011-2012 and 13, 277 people stayed at the Redstreak campground in 2012.
Written by reporter Steve Hubrecht