Thousands have converged in Whonnock Lake Park to enjoy the nice weather. (Roxanne Hooper/The News)

Thousands have converged in Whonnock Lake Park to enjoy the nice weather. (Roxanne Hooper/The News)

Thousands enjoy B.C. park with warnings about social distancing

Portable toilets installed in anticipation of nice weather

The City of Maple Ridge is warning Whonnock Lake Park users to follow public health guidelines as thousands have been converging on the beach with the onset of sunny, warm weather.

Between 25,000 and 30,000 people have visited the park from the beginning of the year until the end of March, said Valoree Richmond, director of parks and facilities. That’s the equivalent of about 16,000 vehicle entries. However, about 5,000 of those vehicles were connected with Lakeside Pre-school, she noted.

There was a 40 per cent increase in visitors to the park over the weekends in March and during Spring Break, compared to weekday visitation.

“Whonnock Lake is a popular destination for citizens in our community and during the pandemic, similar to Provincial and Regional Parks, we’ve seen increased local park visits from people who are looking for ways to get outside and live healthy lifestyles,” said Richmond, adding that they have ramped up their servicing schedule to the park based on what they learned from last year.

Last summer public bathrooms were closed until July 23 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and there were complaints the four portable toilets were unsanitary.

READ MORE: Dirty toilets greet visitors to Whonnock Lake during BC Day long weekend

There are portable toilets again this year that were set up on April 13, in anticipation of the nice weather, explained Richmond.

They will be cleaned every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, said Richmond, in addition to being checked during the weekend.

Also, on May 1, the exterior washroom facilities will be open for public use at the Whonnock Hall site. Those washrooms will be cleaned daily, noted Richmond.

There are four new wildlife resistant recycling bins, in collaboration with Return It BC. Nine wildlife resistant garbage bins are also on the site, that are currently being emptied three times a week, but will be emptied daily come May 1, said Richmond.

“We are also asking park users to ‘pack it in, pack it out’ across all park sites in the community. Bring a garbage bag with you and collect all of your own recycling and garbage and take it home with you to support recycling and reduce your footprint,” Richmond requested, asking visitors not to leave garbage adjacent to cans if they are full, “as this is a wildlife attractant.”

READ: Police investigate ‘suspicious circumstance’ at Whonnock Lake

In addition, 150 cubic yards of sand was added to the beach area and work was done on the gravel parking lot surface.

So far, Richmond said, they have not had to limit access to the park during the pandemic, but she cautions people about parking along the road outside of the park once the parking lot is full.

Whonnock Lake Park is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and is a popular destination for canoeing, paddle boarding, swimming, fishing, picnics, barbeques, and wildlife viewing.

“We ask that people take responsibility for their own actions and follow the public health guidelines around social distancing. Please keep dogs on leash at all times in the park. We ask that park users not plan large gatherings at the park, inconsistent with health guidelines,” said Richmond, warning that bylaw compliance officers and community safety officers do random patrols of the community and act on complaints from the public.

Richmond added that the public can call the bylaw complaint line at 604-467-7305 or the RCMP non-emergency line at 604-463-6251 if they are concerned about any improper activity.


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