B.C. closes all provincial parks
BC Parks is immediately closing all provincial parks in response to the widespread call for increased action to address COVID-19.
The closure includes Burgoyne Bay, Mount Maxwell, Mount Erskine and Ruckle provincial parks on Salt Spring.
A news release states the closure responds to both the federal and provincial directives that people should stay close to home to reduce COVID-19 transmission risk. This temporary measure means people should not be going to provincial parks until further notice.
“Because physical distancing works, it is critical that we take every action needed to restrict the spread of COVID-19. This applies to British Columbians and out-of-province visitors who were planning to visit or stay at our provincial parks. The message is clear: stay home, avoid travel, do not put yourself or others at risk,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
“I understand and share the love people in British Columbia have for the outdoors and the connection between health and proximity to nature. We tried to provide safe space for people to get some exercise and fresh air in our beautiful parks. But it has proven too challenging to maintain safe distance between visitors. This action is difficult but necessary. We look forward to the day we can welcome people back to our wonderful parks.”
The decision to close the park system was informed by continued feedback from RCMP, local government, First Nations, local search-and-rescue organizations and the general public. While many people are observing the physical distancing requirements set by the provincial health officer (PHO), some continue to ignore the order, making enforcement in a wilderness setting challenging.
BC Parks said the timing is important given the upcoming long weekend and the beginning of the busy season for outdoor recreation and camping.
Rick Laing, who is volunteer warden for Mount Erskine Provincial Park, noted the road to Mount Maxwell is in bad shape at this time and it might be best if people stayed off it anyway. As well, there are opportunities to get exercise nearby the park boundaries or in other parts of the island.
“There are lots of place where people can still enjoy nature on roads and paths and things without actually going into the parks,” Laing said.
BC Parks is also extending the ban on all camping in provincial parks until May 31, 2020, in alignment with neighbouring jurisdictions and the temporary closure of Canada’s national parks. Refunds for bookings up to May 31 will be sent automatically.