VICTORIA -- As B.C. begins the second phase of its restart plan, the province will soon be opening its reservation system for overnight camping, but only for British Columbia residents.

According to BC Parks, local residents will be given priority access to provincial parks “in support of staying local and avoiding unnecessary travel.”

The reservation system for provincial parks will go live at 7 a.m. on May 25. Campsites can be booked for up two months in advance, meaning that people who reserve campsites on May 25 can choose dates up to July 25. On May 26, campsites can be reserved with arrival dates up to July 26, and so on.

The province says that any non-B.C. resident who has already reserved a campsite for this summer can receive a full refund by contacting the BC Parks call centre before June 15.

Any non-B.C. resident who books a campsite after May 25 could face immediate cancellations without a refund, according to the province.

“We’re trying to make B.C. parks available to British Columbians so that people can go to a park closest to their community, just as other provinces in western Canada have been doing,” said B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman.

Meanwhile, B.C. residents who had previously reserved campsites and whose plans have now changed due to COVID-19 have until June 15 to cancel their reservations for a full refund.

According to Heyman, B.C.’s Discover Camping website, which is used to book camping reservations, will have the latest information on provincial parks when the reservation system goes live on May 25.

Heyman says that many parks will not be operating at full capacity to allow for physical distancing.

“We’ve had to reduce the number of campsites in some parts to ensure physical distancing, but we’re opening as many as possible,” he said.

Enhanced cleaning practices have also been rolled out across B.C.’s parks. Extra cleaning of high-touch surfaces and bathrooms will be in place, and parks staff will be monitoring parking lots to ensure that areas are not becoming overcrowded.

“We’ve been working with park operators to put in a number of measures that meet the requirements of WorkSafeBC and the provincial health office,” said Heyman.

“The point is to enable people to enjoy the camping experience without worrying that they’re not meeting social distancing that’s still required to bend the curve of COVID-19.”

Further information on reserving campsites this summer can be found on the Discover Camping website.

The BC Parks call centre can be contacted here