In order to further drive home the necessity of B.C. residents keeping close to their own communities, BC Parks announced Wednesday the immediate closure of all provincial parks.
The closure responds to both the federal and provincial directives that people should stay close to home to reduce COVID-19 transmission risk, notes a release from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
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.”
British Columbia has the third largest parks system in North America, after Canada's National Parks and the United States' National Park Service.
The timing of the closure is key, as it is when outdoor enthusiasts and British Columbians typically mark the start of the spring recreation season, as well as it is a holiday long weekend.
However, it is also a crucial time in B.C. in our efforts to "plank" or "flatten" our COVID-19 infection curve in the province.
As of Tuesday, there have been 1,291 test-positive confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C., with 43 deaths.
The closure of all provincial parks further reinforces the message from federal and provincial authorities that we should not be travelling, particularly to second homes in smaller communities or to visit family, as well as the need to observe social and physical distancing orders.
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, notes BC Parks.