The entrance to the Othello Tunnels parking lot has caution tape up and signs warning visitors of the park’s closure. Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard

Many Hope and Fraser Canyon parks remain closed, as others around B.C. open to day use

A ‘slow, methodical’ approach to re-opening tourism is crucial, says Shannon Jones

Several parks in the Hope and Fraser Canyon areas are not on the list of B.C. parks set to re-open to day-use May 14.

While camping won’t be coming until June due to the ongoing pandemic, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced last week that several parks would be open for day-use only, in time for the Victoria Day long weekend. While some nearby parks including E.C. Manning and Bridal Veil Falls provincial parks and the Coquihalla Summit recreation area are set to re-open, many in the Hope area – including the Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park which houses the Othello Tunnels – remain closed.

As early as March 24, day-use facilities and campgrounds in provincial parks were closed. By April 8, on the advice of the RCMP, the province shut down parks to all visitors. The partial re-opening of some provincial parks is part of the government’s ‘restart B.C.’ approach and the continued easing of restrictions will depend on whether rates of COVID-19 infection remain low.

BC Parks stated a later phase will include re-opening the reservation system, campgrounds and more day use, but some high use parks could remain closed for the season.

Along with Othello, Silver Lake and Skagit Valley provincial parks don’t have a re-opening date. Up the Fraser Canyon, Nahatlatch (the park and protected area), Emory Creek and the Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux Heritage provincial parks also don’t yet have re-opening dates.

Shannon Jones, executive director of Hope’s tourism and economic development organization AdvantageHOPE, said she appreciates the phased approach BC Parks is taking. “The approach to tourism needs to be a very slow, methodical one that gives residents the opportunity to feel safe and confident that this is the best next step,” she added.

A lot of thought goes into which parks to re-open and which to keep closed, said B.C. Parks spokesperson Jeremy Uppenborn.

A major factor is the parks with high visitor volumes – where facilities get crowded, parking lots are packed and ‘Instagrammable’ points of interest often experience long line ups. The problem with these popular spots, such as Othello Tunnels during the summer, is how difficult physical distancing becomes. Not to mention, Uppenborn said, the environmental impacts. If all hikers are walking along a narrow path, stepping two metres off the path to let others pass could result in environmental degradation.

“These high-use parks require substantial staff presence, high service levels, and in-person visitor management,” BC Parks stated. “We are keeping these parks closed for now in order to keep staff, park operators, park visitors and the parks themselves safe.”

People who decide to flout restrictions and visit a closed park could be stuck with a $115 fine, BC Parks stated, by park operators and rangers on patrol. And while Jones thinks BC Parks are well-prepared to enforce these rules, it is ‘disheartening’ to see so many people come to the community despite the rules in place. If there is an influx of COVID-19 cases due to over-tourism and people not respecting the current boundaries, further plans to re-open could be postponed she added.

“We’re aware right now that tourism has taken a pause, so right now parks are mainly to support residents in their own areas to get outside and expand that bubble a little bit,” she said. “We’re advising against non-essential travel…our messages has changed from ‘explore B.C. later’ to ‘explore B.C. local.’ So that means…hyper-local tourism…staying in your own community.”

Uppenborn said talks are ongoing about the parks not yet on the re-open list. He advised people to keep checking the list of parks website to find out about the reopening of a specific park.

And while some beautiful parks across the province are now open to visitors, B.C. Premier John Horgan stressed this is not an invite to plan a big road trip far from home.

“Let’s enjoy that, but let’s stay close to home,” he cautioned. “This is not the time for a road trip to another community for a hike or a holiday. If you have a provincial park in your area, by all means, visit it. Do not travel great distances. We need to stay close to home. That is a key part of our recovery.”

– with files from Tom Fletcher.



emelie.peacock@hopestandard.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirusparks

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Young Abbotsford cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

Abbotsford parents upset as district gets cohort exemption to maximize class sizes at elementary school

Classes and cohorts shuffled after division eliminated at King Traditional elementary school

B.C. families financially affected by pandemic eligible for grocery gift cards

Program open to struggling families in Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley communities

‘Each step is a prayer’: Ojibwe man will walk from Hope to Vancouver Island for Indigenous healing, reconciliation

James Taylor departs Sept. 20, returns to Saanich in five days for sacred fire

COLUMN: We don’t need an election. But it’s 2020, so we’ll probably get one anyways.

There are only selfish reasons for the NDP to trigger an election this fall

B.C. or Ontario? Residential school survivors fight move of court battle

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

VIDEO: Shots fired outside Langley gas station that was scene of 2018 homicide

No reports of injuries in Saturday evening incident

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Air quality advisory ends for the Lower Mainland

It had been in effect since Sept. 8

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Most Read