B.C. closes provincial parks

All provincial parks in British Columbia closed April 8 and are scheduled to remain so as the province attempts to limit the spread of COVID-19.

A news release said the closure is temporary but is a way to discourage groups of people or out-of-province visitors, particularly as the Easter holiday looms.

“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, B.C. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

Heyman said parks were open to allow people some space to get exercise and fresh air when many are out of work and otherwise housebound.

However, “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 minister said in a news release.

It further said while most people are obeying physical distance requirements set out by the provincial health officer, some continue to ignore them and enforcement “in a wilderness setting” is difficult.

“The timing of this decision is important given the upcoming long weekend and the beginning of the busy season for outdoor recreation and camping. B.C.

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.”

Camping and motorized recreation, including off-road vehicles, are also being restricted in the Koocanusa area in B.C.’s southeastern corner and will remain so throughout spring and summer, the province announced.

Restrictions took effect April 8 and will remain in place until further notice.

“Although overnight camping will be prohibited in this area, people may still use designated roads and trails on a day-use basis as long as they adhere to physical distancing guidelines and other restrictions that may be in place,” the province said in a news release.

Koocanusa is designated as a “recreation strategy” rather than a provincial park. Unauthorized mud bogging around the Koocanusa reservoir has caused environmental concerns including water and soil contamination, damage to forest, wildlife disruption and scattered garbage.

Contact barb.glen@producer.com

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