BC Parks is immediately closing all provincial parks until further notice.
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy says the closures are in response to the widespread call for increased measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“The closure responds to both the federal and provincial directives that people should stay close to home to reduce COVID-19 transmission risk,” the ministry said in a press release on Wednesday.
This new measure means no one should be entering any provincial parks, including both residents and out-of-province visitors.
“Because physical distancing works, it is critical that we take every action needed to restrict the spread of COVID-19. The message is clear: stay home, avoid travel, do not put yourself or others at risk,” George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, said in the release.
The action is difficult but necessary, according to Heyman.
“We tried to provide a safe space for people to get some exercise and fresh air in our beautiful parks. But it has proven too challenging to maintain a safe distance between visitors,” he said.
Although many people are following guidelines set out by the provincial health officer, the ministry says some people aren’t and enforcing those guidelines in the wilderness is challenging.
The announcement comes just days before the long weekend.
BC Parks is also extending the ban on all camping in provincial parks until May 31, to comply with neighbouring jurisdictions and the temporary closure of Canada’s national parks. Anyone who booked campsites during this time will be automatically refunded.
The Recreation Sites and Trails BC branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development has also closed its campgrounds and amenities in response to COVID-19 concerns.
BC Parks says it will open its parks once the province’s health authorities give the green light.
For more updates and information, visit the BC Parks website.