Parc Safari will launch its 51st season on May 19, with the goal of returning to its pre-pandemic season attendance of 300,000 visitors.
President and owner Jean-Pierre Ranger does not shy away from admitting COVID has resulted in some leaner years at the Hemmingford-based zoo and water park. Ever the optimist, Ranger says he continues to instill an ecologically friendly vision for the park and its development, and he is confident it will bounce back with some support from the local community.
Parc Safari will open its most popular attraction, the Safari Adventure Tour, with a fleet of nine new Lion 6 electric bush trucks designed for the park by the Lion Electric Company in Saint-Jerome. The trucks have greater autonomy than those introduced last year and will continue to offer the same up-close encounters with the animals. “We are hoping those who come will choose to get one the bush trucks and enjoy a guided tour,” says Ranger. Families who prefer to use their own vehicle may drive through the safari, but only during the afternoon.
Visitors this season will find the Discovery Pavillion has been remodeled, and a second exhibition focused on sustainability and the environment has been added. “Everything at the park is becoming an opportunity to learn about history and geography,” says Ranger, suggesting the Oasis safari is inspired by the Nile River, and the Afrika Terrace features a giant map of the continent of Africa.
Ranger admits the success of this season will determine how rapidly the park is able to develop in the short term. He says the park is hoping to welcome new giraffes in 2024, but a new facility is needed before they arrive. There are also plans to develop a campground and extend services, but these are on the back burner for the moment.
With just days to go before the park opens, Ranger says they are looking at innovative ways to minimize the impacts of the labour shortage on visitors. “We are trying to manage the crowds in a proactive way,” he explains, by offering a weekday pass and an afternoon pass aimed at locals. “We are trying to not overcrowd the entrance between 10 and 11 with people who live nearby with season passes.”
Ranger is hoping the local community will also consider lending a hand this summer; the park is seeking drivers for the bush trucks, volunteers to help with landscaping, and greeters to help manage traffic early in the day. “This is a comeback year,” he says, and community support is needed.