BC Parks 'actively' working on reopening plan, timeline unclear
VANCOUVER -- People who have been missing visits to provincial parks over the last few weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic now have something to look forward to: the province is working on a plan to reopen B.C. parks, although it’s unclear how soon that could happen and what it will look like.
In an emailed statement, BC Parks told CTV News Vancouver they are "actively working on a reopening plan for the weeks ahead," but added "we are unable to predict exactly when the current park system closure will be lifted, but it will likely be done in a phased approach."
The government officially closed all provincial parks on April 8 in response to the pandemic. On Saturday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry indicated finding a way to reopen parks is on the province’s radar.
“We are looking at how we can open up the parks in a safe way, as we start to transition to our new normal,” Dr. Henry said.
Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C. member Dave Wharton told CTV News Vancouver their group has supported all of the government’s measures, including the closures, but he thinks it is time to revisit the full closure of the parks.
“I think that it would relieve pressure that we’re currently starting to see on some of our city parks and Metro Vancouver parks,” Wharton said. “We believe it can be safely managed.”
Wharton pointed out Golden Ears Provincial Park in Maple Ridge as an example, and said the park has loop trails that could be designated as one-way, with staff at "pinch points" to help guide people.
He’d also like the government to consider reopening "front country" campsites on a limited basis, where it’s safe to do so.
If parks were to stay closed, Wharton is worried some will still head into the wilderness where patrols can’t find them.
"The danger may be that people will start going up the various logging roads, forestry roads, resource roads," Wharton said while standing at the entrance to Golden Ears Park. "Within 20 minutes of where we’re talking now, I could take you to a dozen access points and people can disappear up those roads and old trails and nobody knows where they’ve gone. Here, it can be managed."
BC Parks said some closures may have to stay in place to reopen safely and added that could mean specific parks or park areas, or certain services and facilities.
They added there is also a need to establish "clear safety and cleaning protocols."
"With over 1,000 parks and protected areas, this is a large and complicated task," the BC Parks statement said. "We’re dealing with everything from remote wilderness and urban settings to quiet day use, large campgrounds and busy day use areas, so we have to assess each of our parks and campgrounds to determine how to reopen them."
Currently, campground closures are in effect in B.C. until May 31.