May long weekend camping trips at BC parks are officially cancelled.
All of B.C.’s provincial parks have been closed as officials continue to take action to stop the spread of COVID-19 until at least May 31st.
The province announced the immediate closure on Wednesday, saying it’s in response to “federal and provincial directives” asking people to stay home.
“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,” George Heyman, B.C.’s environment minister said in a news release.
Officials say the decision to close the province’s park system was made with feedback from RCMP, local governments, First Nations, local search-and-rescue organizations and the general public.
“I understand and share the love people in British Columbia have for the outdoors and the connection between health and proximity to nature,” Heyman said.
“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.”
The closure also means the province’s camping ban has been extended until May 31. Refunds will be issued automatically for any reservations that were already made and the closures will be evaluated again.
Prior to closing all provincial parks, B.C. officials had closed select locations. By late March, Chilliwack Lake, Joffre Lakes, Murrin, Shannon Falls provincial parks and the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park had all been closed.
Several Metro Vancouver municipalities have also closed some of their park facilities in an effort to promote physical distancing. As of Wednesday, Vancouver’s park board is implementing restrictions in Stanley Park including closing it completely to cars and asking cyclists to avoid using the seawall.