With people looking for leisurely activities close to home, the Ghost Reservoir Recreation Area attracted large crowds this summer.
Mike Weinert, owner of Ghost Lake Recreation Ltd., says he's never seen it so busy. He credits COVID-19 for helping Albertans discover the splendors of the location.
"We were extremely busy early in the season when Banff was still shut down. I think that was sort of the kick off. Everybody discovered Ghost because they couldn't go into national parks, and they were staying more local. I think that useable continued all summer long."
Weinert says campground bookings were up about 50 per cent, the marina steady, and the day-use was busiest he's ever seen it since he established Ghost Lake Recreations Ltd. 26 years ago.
"Most of our Tuesdays look like what our Saturdays use to look like. It's been busy, busy, busy seven days a week this year, which is nice."
He says that popularity didn't necessarily translate into a highly profitable season. With COVID-19, he and his staff couldn't afford to get sick, and they took many precautions to stay healthy. If any of the staff caught the virus, the entire facility would have had to be closed.
That meant many of the items they typically sold in their confectionary to help generate revenue weren't available this year.
Still, he find comfort in the joy the area brought to many people.
"I met a lot of new people that had just picked up a kayak or just picked up a paddleboard or it was their first time out to the Ghost. We got a lot of, 'I didn't know this place existed. Wow!'"
He believes it will be the start of many busy summer seasons.
"Those people who discovered Ghost this year will hopefully continue to use it next year."
That's good news for an area that has seen its share of lean summers, especially since the province began reducing the operating level of the reservoir to 1,184.2 metres until the end of June as a flood mitigation measure. It doesn't return to its more typical level of 1,191m until July.
The Ghost Lake campground has 80 unserviced camp sites. The upgraded boat launch on the southside of Hwy. 1A has been a welcomed addition for visitors and soon the north side launch will also be upgraded by the province.
Additionally, Ghost Lake Recreation has a marina, with floating dock systems for clients, and offers a full range of services for boats, from storage to service and supplies, as well as RV storage. Their chandlery typically offers a variety of confectionary items.