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Vancouver's Stanley Park will close to vehicles starting Wednesday

The move is to reduce congestion in the park and on the seawall to enable proper physical distancing
Stanley Park will close to motorists Wednesday and cyclists are being urged to move off the seawall and use the park's roads. File photo Dan Toulgoet

Stanley Park will be closed to all vehicles as of noon Wednesday and cyclists will be encouraged to move off the seawall and use the roads in the park, the park board’s general manager announced Tuesday.

Malcolm Bromley said the move is to reduce congestion in the park and on the seawall in a continued effort to emphasize the importance of physical distancing during the pandemic.

“There are also environmental benefits for doing this, but my main priority and the park board’s priority is public health safety,” Bromley told reporters outside the board’s offices adjacent to the park.

He cited Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s recent data showing COVID-19 cases in B.C. are not climbing as rapidly as other provinces in saying that physical distancing is making a difference, “but we can’t let up.”

The closure of Stanley Park will remain in place indefinitely, with barriers and signs marked for motorists approaching the park. Digital traffic signs on Georgia Street, at English Bay and along the Stanley Park causeway will also be in place to alert motorists of the closure.

Emergency responders, the number 19 transit bus and park board and city vehicles will still have access to the park. As will staff of the Rowing Club, Yacht Club, HMCS Discovery, Prospect Point and Stanley Park Ecology Society.

Bromley said most people are trying to physically distance themselves from others, but noted park rangers issued 1,600 warnings to people over the last week who weren’t adhering to the two-metre rule to stay apart.

In addition to the work of the rangers, the park board recently announced its “champions” campaign, where 25 to 40 recreation staff now walk along the seawall and are “gently reminding people about the importance of physical distancing,” he said.

Staff have cited concerns to Bromley about joggers.

“We’re finding sometimes that joggers and runners are making it difficult for pedestrians, particularly the elderly and those with physical disabilities, or perhaps even a dog,” he said.

“So I’m making an appeal to runners and joggers to take measures to avoid this conflict, to run at different times. If you’re coming upon a group of pedestrians, please go around them, give them a wide berth and we’ll all be able to enjoy the seawall and the parks together.”

Meanwhile, the City of Vancouver announced Monday that property use inspectors had conducted more than 14,300 visits over the last two weeks to restaurants, farmers’ markets, personal service businesses, grocery and liquor stores.

So far, only the business licence of a downtown Tim Hortons was suspended.

The inspections began after the city declared a state of emergency March 19, followed the next day by an order to shut down all dine-in options at restaurants and limited food service businesses.

The city has the authority to levy fines of $1,000 to $50,000 to operators of businesses and individuals who continue to ignore pleas and flout orders related to physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The total confirmed COVID-19 cases in B.C. was 1,266, as of Monday.