A visitor obtains their vehicle permit at Emily Provincial Park's gatehouse.

What it’s like to work the front gate at a provincial park

Our front gate staff are frontline heroes of park operations.

(If you’ve ever checked in at a bustling park on a busy Friday afternoon, you know exactly what we’re talking about!)

Gate staff work extremely hard to get you into the park as quickly as possible, all while balancing many priorities in a hectic environment.

Here are five things they’d like you to know about working in the gatehouse:

1. The front gate is an information hub

Checking in campers is only one part of what happens at the gatehouse. Many important facets of park operations funnel through the main gate.

Car parked outside main gate.

The front gate supports the rest of the park by listening to all incoming radio messages. If wardens need to inform the gate about an incoming ambulance, or maintenance has a plumbing emergency, it is a priority for the gate to be listening for and receiving those broadcasts.

This is important for both our visitor’s safety and their overall experience in the park.

This all happens while they provide excellent customer service to a high volume of visitors who are arriving throughout the day.

2. It’s a busy environment

Our gate staff are expert multitaskers.

Employee using park radio.

At any given moment, they may be checking in campers, selling firewood or ice, taking radio calls, or helping out other visitors with emergencies.

Please understand that their attention may shift depending on what calls come in. Even though they are pulled in multiple directions, we promise they will help you get into the park as soon as they can.

staff answering phone

If you have a question for our gate staff, but you see a line, consider returning to the gate at a non-peak time or looking in the park tabloid to see if the information you need is there.

We love answering questions, but we need to mindful of lines backing up and causing congestion.

3. It’s loud!


You may hear our gate staff say this a lot!

visitor obtaining permit from staff

With a busy environment comes noise. Sometimes, it may be tricky for our staff to hear you out the gatehouse window.

If you’re checking in for a campsite reservation, you can help smooth out the process by preparing a list of the names of everyone staying on your site. Remember: staff need to collect this information and confirm it’s accurate!

Don’t forget that you can also preregister your information on your online account before you arrive to speed things up.

4. Weekends are always busy

When a line forms, it’s not because our staff are not doing their jobs.

We understand that no one wants to get caught waiting in a line, however there’s no escaping the fact that some arrival times are busier than others.

staff greeting visitor in vehicle

To optimize your gatehouse experience, consider arriving before or after busy hours. Our busiest times during the summer are around 4:00 pm on Fridays and between 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

You can avoid lines by planning your camping or day-use arrival outside of these hours. If you arrive before your campsite check-in time, you can go in and enjoy the park until your site becomes available as long as there’s space and the park is not at capacity.

5. We hate to disappoint our visitors

The hardest part of gate staff’s job is when they have to let our eager visitors know that the park is full and we cannot accommodate them. It’s never fun being the bearer of bad news.

ate staff explaining map to visitor

To avoid disappointment, make sure you have planned as much of your trip as possible in advance. Remember you can book your campsite up to five months in advance on our online reservation service.

You can also book your daily vehicle permit in advance at many parks.

Gate staff are human, and they are trying their best to help our visitors in any way they can. If you’re frustrated with your experience, please don’t take it out on our staff.

What you can do

Coming prepared helps ensure a smooth check-in to the park.

Have your campsite number ready, and do your research about the park you’re visiting ahead of time.

Employee providing directions to a customer.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on your park’s social media channels and alerts page for important updates.

Our staff are just as passionate about the park as you are, and they can’t wait to welcome you!

Next time you arrive at the gatehouse, we hope you will practice patience, kindness, and understanding.