Provincial parks, Island outdoor recreation facilities reopen Thursday

Provincial parks, Island outdoor recreation facilities reopen Thursday
WatchMost provincial parks are now open again, with physical distancing measures in place, and many municipalities across the Island have also opened up outdoor recreation facilities. Jasmine Bala has more.

Most provincial parks and many Island outdoor recreation facilities reopened Thursday, just in time for the May long weekend.

B.C. Parks has opened many front- and back-country trails, picnic areas, boat launches, beaches and washroom facilities for day-use only, as part of phase 2 of the province’s restart plan. These parks have been closed since March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Parks that attract large crowds, such as the Juan De Fuca Provincial Park, will not be reopening.

“We have different measures for different parks,” explained B.C. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman. “There will be certain trails marked for access, some may be marked for no access because they don’t allow people to separate by two metres if they have to pass each other.”

Provincial campgrounds and back-country camping will remain closed until June 1.

Those that are visiting day-use provincial parks can expect their experience to be different.

“In some larger parks, we’re monitoring parking lots,” said Heyman. “Knowing that at a certain level, we’re going to have too many people in the park. And at that point, park operators will control access to the gates, let some people in as others leave.”

With the long weekend just around the corner, officials are asking people to stay close to home.

“There are lots of parks and recreation sites in B.C. that are close to where most people live,” said Heyman. “Find the one closest to you and by all means, get out, get some fresh air.”

Staying in our local communities and limiting non-essential travel will help us protect ourselves as well as smaller communities with limited resources, Heyman added.

A complete list of all parks open can be viewed here.

Meanwhile, municipalities all across the Island are welcoming back visitors to their outdoor recreation facilities as well, as part of a phased approach.

The City of Victoria has reopened tennis and pickleball courts, sports fields, and skate and bike parks for recreational use, with signs communicating guidelines for use.

“We wanted to make sure we open whatever facilities we could so that individuals could get back to some of those physical activities while doing it in a safe way,” said Thomas Soulliere, director of parks, recreation and facilities.

Signs installed at each of the facilities communicate guidelines for use.

“There are still obviously some considerations that participants need to keep in mind,” Soulliere noted. “Most importantly physical distancing, not sharing equipment, and not crowding the spaces.”

Close contact recreation facilities like playgrounds and outdoor gyms remain closed.

“We don’t have our safety protocols in place yet where we can really be confident that those areas can be used by the general public,” Soulliere explained. “Disinfecting high-touch surfaces, as laid out by the provincial health officer, is an area where we are particularly challenged right now so those will remain closed for the time being.”

The Capital Regional District (CRD) has reopened its outdoor tennis courts, basketball courts, and skate and bike parks.

The Canyon View Trail in Campbell River opened up today, with other recreation sites phased to open.

In Nanaimo, tennis courts, pickleball courts, gated dog off-leash parks and Steve Smith bike park is open.

Starting May 15, Central Saanich will reopen tennis, pickleball and basketball courts.

Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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