Friday, March 7, 2014

Bronte Creek Provincial Park: A Gateway park is not quite the Real Thing

Near the end of the summer 2013 we decided to jump out of town to a Provincial Park.  Bronte Creek Provincial Park is only 40 minutes outside of Toronto in good traffic -- that's a funny key to this park, good traffic.  You could also take the Go train to Bronte station a 10 minutes bike or cab from the park so people who are vehicularly challenged this is a park for you.

Bronte Creek is a provincial park smack dab in the middle between Oakville and Burlington.  Beautiful park land and a pioneer village have been transformed into a gateway provincial park for beginners.  I think it's important to note that I am not a fan of this park.  A gateway park for amateurs is not my problem, but here is what is from my judging criteria for provincial parks.  Just for fun I'm going to rate each of the categories out of 10.

They didn't want a war between Oakville and Burlington so they put a Provincial Park in between them.
Who's ready to Annex the Sudatenland?
Site Cleanliness: 1 out of 10 for the square footage that didn't have someone else's garbage on it. Awful.  The great young lady at the front gates gave me one of the best sites at the park and I was cleaning up the site the whole time I was there.  I don't want to blame beginners, but for you beginners out there, whatever you bring into the park you should take out of the park or dispose of at the garbage and recycling stations located in every provincial park.  At this park it was everything from bread clips, twist ties, elastics and bottle caps (pretty normal) to glass (less so) to dirty diapers (never happened before),  I think I spent 2 hours cleaning my site and the surrounding area and filled a Zehrs bag.

Post cleaning: Site 407 was comfortable and fairly private.
Privacy:  1 out of 10 for the percentage of sites that are private.  There are some sites that are private, but most are in the middle of an open field -- so if it rains you better have an eat tent or something else to do, I guess you could always drive 10 minutes into town to a pub, restaurant or, worst case scenario, a hotel.  The good sites at Bronte Creek are; nothing in Prairie, 229 in Savannah, 301-303, 316, 317, 320, 324, 327, and 328 in Woodland, and 406-409 and 417 in the Ravine.  So out of 144 sites they only have 15 that can remotely be considered private.

What 129 of the campsites looked like.  "Get the lawn mower out we need more sites!"

Hiking and Activities:  5 out of 10 for the kilometres it takes to get there.  Here is the only thing Bronte Creek does well, the park has 5 trails, a frisbee golf course, baseball diamonds, a petting farm zoo, a model airplane flying zone, a working farmhouse, and a nature centre -- sounds amazing right?  BUT they are all a 5 kilometre drive from the campground on the QEW.  There are no trails, no roads, and no zip lines to connect the campground to 98% of the activities the park has to offer.

This gives you a good idea of how things are set up.
What are the 2% of activities you don't have to drive to?  The campground has an amphitheatre where the staff do programs for children.  We went to see an evening program called Flashy Feathers and Bashful Birds where we learned all about LBB's or little brown birds.  To be completely serious the multi-media talk was for children, but both Bev and I really enjoyed it. (Says something about us I guess)  The other percent is for the 2 trails at the campground: one to get people to the park office (Gateway Trail -- no description) with a beautiful view of the adjacent subdivision and the other is a decent trail through the forest and what use to be farmers' fields:

Field and Forest Trail
(3.5 km):  This was a decent hike through Carolinian forest with some wild apple trees and a little bit of wildlife.  If you do get lost on the trail you end up in a subdivision so make sure you look at the map before you leave your campsite. (At the Campground)

At the Day Use Area:
Trillium Trail (1km):  Another walk through the forest on top of the ravine.  From what I understand this is a great place in the Spring to see different wildflowers.

Half Moon Valley Trail (2km):  I enjoyed this trail, where you go down into the ravine through swampier bits and along Bronte creek.  Be careful the Giant Hogweed (dangerous invasive species) has found it's way in here and is along the trail.  (Also there is an MP3 audio guide that you don't know about until you get to Bronte Creek)  Click here for the link to the MP3 audio guide.

The two other trails, Maiden's Blush Trail (1km) and the Ravine Trail (2.7km), we didn't do because we were too busy playing disc golf or Frolf.

If you don't know what Frolf is then check it out where you are. There are courses all over and since we played Frolf here at Bronte we have played courses in Thunder Bay, Toronto Island, Mikisew Provincial Park, and Chicopee Ski Hill in Kitchener.  What I have been told is that the course at Bronte Creek is one of the best in Ontario and I believe it.  All you have to know is that frolf is frisbee golf.  So you start in the tee box.

You can buy weighted frisbees to throw your tee shot farther but we just went to Canadian Tire for our frisbees. The object is to try to get it in a chain linked hole 100 to 200 metres away.

Beverley and I have had so much fun doing this now we look for it everywhere we go and would like to start a Frolf league in Toronto if anyone would like to join.  

So all in all the activities get a high rating, but with a minus because it's... you guessed it - a 5 km drive to get there.

Park Class:  1 out of 10. Recreation, but you have to travel 5 km to do most of it.

Beach Quality or Ease of Getting to the Water:  0 out of 10, for what I liked about this.  Now here is my personal favourite.  This is the only park I know of so far that has a pool for their water.  And I'm thinking 'No problem this pool is 1.8 acres in size'.  So on the first day, I'm by myself and I figure I'll go for a swim.  I drive the five kilometres and have to park a kilometre from the pool, no biggie.  I make the walk to the Kiosk and the nice staff person tells me I need to show proof that I'm camping at Bronte Creek.  Makes sense, you don't want to allow day use people in the pool, sure.  So I trek back to my car and get proof that I'm staying at the park.  The next time I'm at the kiosk I show my camping proof and the nice young staff person informs me that it will cost $3.25 for an adult and $2.25 for a youth, so it's another trip to the car for me.  Once I was finally in the pool area I was unimpressed.  The pool is only 6 feet deep at the centre. It was the beginning of August and the water was frigid cold -- colder than Lake Huron in June!  There was ample space for people to lie out on towels or enjoy a meal with their family, but I like Riverdale Pool across from my house better than this one and Riverdale pool is free! 

At least you don't get sand in your suit.

Recommended Length of Stay:   0 to 2 nights.  I would suggest that a beginning camper should try this provincial park for a weekend as a practice run to camping in other parks.  For anyone who has ever camped before, unless you're having a Frolf weekend, I would suggest to skip this park and drive an extra hour and a half to another Ontario Provincial Park.

Overall Impression: 1 out of 10.  I am not the right camper for this Provincial Park.  This park is for people who have never camped before, people who cannot drive more than an hour from home, and claustrophobics.  This is the type of place for an early to bed bush party, where a bunch of people of age could go for a party that ends at 11pm.  The day use area is great but the province should invest in a bridge or a pay zip line to cross the ravine between the campground and day use area.  Just like something else I can think of that uses gateway as a prefix, it just can't be as good as the real thing.  In the winter they hold a maple syrup festival in the day use area and they have a rink for skating so they have that going for them.  But it seems they don't have a copy editor --

Yep just control C and then control V.  Perfect! Upon reflection Bravo to MacGregor Point Provincial Park.
Rating out of 107:  105 because I think there may be one or possibly two parks worse than this given my criteria and level of experience.  It can't be last because of the Frolf course.

Again if you're keeping track:
#2 Algonquin
#3 Quetico
#19 Sandbanks
#21 Neys
#22 Wakami Lake
#23 Nagagamisis
#29 Pancake Bay
#33 Chutes
#53 Point Farms
#56 Inverhuron
#93 Rainbow Falls
#101 Turkey Point
#105 Bronte Creek