BURNABY (NEWS 1130) — Metro Vancouver is warning people to maintain a safe distance from others as regional parks have become increasingly crowded amid a recent increase in COVID-19 cases across the province.
Beach parks, especially White Pine Beach at Sasamat Lake in Belcarra Regional Park and Boundary Bay Regional Park, have experienced high demand, especially on weekends, leading to local traffic, parking and physical distancing challenges, according to release from Metro parks.
“Metro Vancouver has kept regional parks open as outlets for people to safely enjoy the outdoors, but we are seeing too many visitors neglecting physical distancing guidelines, raising the risk of community virus transmission,” says Sav Dhaliwal, Metro Vancouver board chair.
With another sunny weekend in the forecast, we're reminding everyone to enjoy the outdoors responsibly during the #COVID19 pandemic. Please do your part to reduce crowding & keep each other safe, so that we can continue to keep our #RegionalParks open. https://t.co/nNAkp1Cp0C pic.twitter.com/qow6xgRtl8
— Metro Vancouver (@MetroVancouver) July 24, 2020
“As Dr. [Bonnie] Henry warned earlier this week, we must keep our physical interactions to about 60 per cent of normal in order to avoid a major spike in new cases,” he adds.
If park visitors ignore such advice, regional parks could close.
“Connecting with nature is a great way to reduce stress and promote physical and mental well-being, but only if park visitors are careful and sensible,” says John McEwen, chair of the Metro Vancouver parks committee.
“Please do your part to reduce crowding and keep each other safe, so that we can continue to keep our regional parks open.”
Meanwhile, a lack of physical distancing and overcrowding has forced the Cultus Lake Park Board to shut down the two main docks at the lake. While the board says it did try to encourage visitors to stay at least six feet apart, people didn’t change their behaviour.
“[T]he Board sees no other option at this time than to close off the two sections as a health and safety measure,” the board says in a release.
Without an indication of when the Cultus Lake docks might reopen, the board says it hopes this will be a temporary measure and the situation will be assessed daily.
Cultus Lake Park is still open, as are all Metro Vancouver Regional Parks.
Metro Vancouver has increased staff patrols, sanitation of high-touch surfaces, and traffic management, and continues to monitor and manage visitor behaviour.
Amenities including playgrounds, picnic shelters, group camps and reservable facilities are also open, and some nature programs have resumed with modifications.
Parking restrictions are in place at select parks and municipalities have ramped up parking enforcement in residential areas near regional parks.
Parks visitors are asked to:
- choose parks in your own area, do not travel across the region;
- avoid beach parks, explore nearby trail-based parks instead;
- walk, bike, or take transit to avoid contributing to traffic and parking issues;
- maintain physical distance of at least two metres from others at all times, including in parking lots;
- dispose of tissues and other waste in designated garbage bins, pack it in;
- pack it out, do not leave any items behind in parks;
- wash or sanitize hands frequently during the day and upon returning home;
- stay home if you are sick.
-With files from Kathryn Tindale