SURREY (NEWS 1130) — The province is closing Peace Arch park as of 8 p.m. Thursday after the number of visitors has doubled since it reopened in mid-May.
The province, in a release, cited public safety concerns as the reason for the temporary closure.
BC Parks had closed all provincial parks to help limit the spread of COVID-19, but some people separated by the international border were meeting in Peach Arch park.
The park reopened May 14.
“Since then, parking lots and local access roads have been overwhelmed with nearly twice the number of vehicles compared to peak days in the summer season, resulting in illegal parking,” says the province.
“Attendance has doubled over the same period compared to last year, leading to an increase in pedestrians along roadways.”
BC Parks says it consulted with RCMP, border officials, and communities about Peace Arch and measures were taken to manage the growth in visitors, such as more signage, increased enforcement patrols, installing a permanent gate at the entrance, and reducing hours.
“The measures have not addressed the risk associated with the significant increases in visitors from both sides of the border,” says the province.
“BC Parks understands the importance of unification for families and friends. Through exemptions to the Federal Quarantine Act, the federal government is now allowing immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to enter Canada to be with an immediate family member for a period of at least 15 days, as long as they are asymptomatic of COVID-19 and self-isolate for 14 days on arrival.”
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Vancouver’s Chelsea Renaud is one of the people who will be racing to see her Bellingham-based partner before the park shuts down.
“The fact that it is cut short is very disappointing, but I am also grateful for this time that we have had. I think we’ve been able to see each other about eight times now,” she said.
Peace Arch park will reopen, the province adds, when it is deemed safe to do so.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau extended the closure of the Canada-U.S. border to July 21.
“This is an important decision that will keep people in both of our countries safe,” Trudeau said Tuesday.
The Canada-U.S. border was first closed to all non-essential traffic in March to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
B.C.’s NDP health critic, Don Davies, raised concerns last month after reports of cross-border couples using a loophole to meet face-to-face in Peace Arch park, given they didn’t technically have to self-isolate since the lines for the border are staggered at that crossing.