Can You Legally Activate an Ontario Park That is Closed for the Season?

We have reached the time of year when most Ontario Provincial Parks have closed for the season. Gates are shut and padlocked, water and electricity are turned off and washrooms (aka restrooms for US visitors) are locked.

But can visitors still enter provincial parks on foot without violating any rules? For POTA activators this is an important question. Provincial parks are generally closed from the end of October and until sometime in May. That’s a long time to wait if you are otherwise willing and brave enough to go out in the winter with your portable radio equipment.

I decided to find out by seeking an official ruling from Ontario Parks – the Ontario Government agency responsible for operating the parks.

But first, what do the Parks On The Air rules say about operating in a seasonally closed park?

From the POTA rules (–information):

Activation Location and Access

  1. Activations must be performed from parks in POTA’s designated list, which are also open to the public.
    • A park is considered open when the public has civil and legal access, or a special permission/permit to the public lands defined by the park boundary map is obtainable. Such access must comply with any other specific civil or legal restrictions mentioned by the governing agency/website.
    • A park is closed when the governing agency/website clearly says that public access is prohibited or when the park itself ceases to exist.
    • Seasonal closure of facilities, concessions, offices, some gates, or even large portions of the park may still allow lawful access to the remainder. If in doubt, please call the park office/administrator.

So I sent an inquiry using the Ontario Parks email contact form. To be honest, I expected to wait weeks for a reply only to receive a negative answer. I was wrong on both counts. I sent my inquiry on a Saturday afternoon and received a response almost as soon as the Ontario Parks offices re-opened on the following Monday morning. And, it was good news!

My Inquiry

Sent: October 29, 2022 2:31 PM
To: Ontario Parks – Concerns/Comments (MECP)
Subject: Walk-in Access

Comments: Is it permissible for visitors to walk into an Ontario Park for exercise when the park is closed for the season?


Ontario Parks – Concerns/Comments (MECP) via

9:15 AM October 31 2022

Hi John,

Thanks for reaching out!

Members of the public can access, free of charge, provincial parks that are closed for the season, non-operating provincial parks and conservation reserves for self-guided activities such as walking, hiking, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. For public safety, if visiting a park that is closed for the season, non-operating park or conservation reserve, please ensure there is a safe place to park (please do not park along municipal roads).

We want our visitors to be aware, where there is access for self-guided use, there is limited to no staff present and no maintenance performed, hazards will exist, quickly changing and challenging weather conditions including snowstorms, ice storms, slippery surfaces will present risk to users.

We encourage Ontarians to engage in outdoor activity close to where they live or visit their local provincial park or conservation reserve have an emergency plan and bring all the equipment and supplies you will need for your visit.

We hope this information helps!

Ontario Parks

So it is good news! I should have expected that access during the winter season would be allowed. Ontario provincial parks are restricted use “Crown Land” meaning that technically they belong to the citizens of the Province of Ontario. “Restricted use” in this context means they are governed by the rules and regulations set down by the provincial government.

With this encouraging news I will be hauling my “radio sled” across the winter snow again this year seeking POTA activations. I hope to catch you on the air, but be kind – I’ll be freezing my butt off!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s