Spring is in the air, and after more than a week of social distancing due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many Calgarians headed outside over the weekend for a breath.
There were cars lined up near Elbow Falls, and Nose Hill was dotted with dog walkers and families out and about. The river pathway system in Calgary was also bustling.
“I think we’ve got room to have our two arm’s length distance and still enjoy the outdoors,” Dr. Marcia Johnson said. “At this point in time. We haven’t had any indication that we’d have to limit the activity outside.”
But some in mountain towns like Canmore are feeling overwhelmed — and don’t want to be everyone’s playground.
Marnie Dansereau owns Communitea Cafe and has lived in Canmore for more than twenty years. She’s closed her business for the time being, and said many around her have also ceased operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Which means there are fewer places for visitors to sit, eat and use the bathroom.
Over the weekend Dansereau watched groups of people squeeze by each other on the main street sidewalk.
“The message to stay home means staying within your backyard,” Dansereau said. “It doesn’t mean staying inside 24-7, but you know, this is our home and this is where gratefully we get to be outside.”
Dansereau fears if people aren’t careful soon the government will lock things down, and then no one will be free to roam outside or get fresh air.
“It’s not about alienating anyone and saying you can’t come here,” she said. “It’s about being smart. And I don’t think the smart choices were being made in town with packed sidewalks and packed trails and trail heads and capacity Nordic Centre with you know, no bathroom facilities.”
“Sorry folks, this is not a time for a roadtrip.” The Town of Banff is very quiet and that’s a very good thing, for now. For the safety of our residents, for your safety, for the safety of your extended families please follow the direction of experts: “stay home”. #albertacares pic.twitter.com/vJkiAk8Q4t— Mayor Karen Sorensen (@BanffMayor) March 22, 2020
On Sunday, town Mayor John Borrowman addressed concerns.
“I understand that people in the city are looking at this the sky and the weather thinking well, this is a perfect day to get out of our homes and take a drive through the mountains or maybe go for a little ski or something,” he said. “I think that’s healthy for them. But don’t think that after your ski you should come down to the town of Canmore. We’re we’re not really open for business anymore.”
Last week, Parks Canada closed all visitor services across the country, including historic sites, visitor services and marine conservation areas. That closure included Banff National Park, though Albertans can still access front country, backcountry and various green spaces.
In response, the province also shut down winter camping in provincial parks. Plans to open up online reservations for group camping are still set to open March 24.
Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen spoke to local radio station Mountain FM. She said many services in Banff are closed, so it’s not an ideal time to be visiting. The other concern is their medical services are at capacity in this outbreak, so they can’t help any visitors who need help.
“We’ve kind of reached the point of saying, ‘Thanks for not visiting,'” she said, admitting it’s a strange request for a mountain resort town.
On Monday morning, Trudeau also pleaded with Canadians to stay home whenever possible and to practise social distancing, warning that no one is invincible during this time of a global pandemic.