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Cross-border visits at Peace Arch Park still frustrating Surrey residents, politicians

Last Updated Jan 22, 2021 at 10:06 pm PST

FILE - In this May 17, 2020, file photo, a bird flies from the U.S. into Canada over the Peace Arch in Peace Arch Historical State Park on the border with Canada. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Summary

Coun. Linda Annis says she's continued to filed complaints from residents about people gathering, about excess vehicles

MLA Stephanie Cadieux has written to Health Minister Adrian Dix to share the concerns of her constituents

One man who continues to visit the park says gathering outdoors at a safe distance is allowed under current restrictions

SURREY (NEWS 1130) — Canadians are still meeting Americans at Peace Arch Park — despite both the park and the border being closed and amid COVID-19 restrictions that restrict gathering — frustrating Surrey residents and politicians.

The Canadian side of the park was closed in June due to a spike in visitors, driven mainly by people using the park as a place to see their loved ones who live across the line.

But Coun. Linda Annis says she’s continued to field complaints from residents about people gathering, and about parking and traffic crowding residential streets.

“The city is serious about doing everything we possibly can to manage the parking situation there, and we do have our staff down there on a very regular basis,” she says.

“This is very problematic. We need to remind everyone that they shouldn’t be doing this. I know it’s very very difficult, but we need to get through this pandemic quickly and the residents down there have every right to be concerned.”

Surrey South MLA Stephanie Cadieux echoes Annis’ concerns, saying she has written to Health Minister Adrian Dix and the minister of public safety to share the concerns of her constituents, and urge the province to intervene.

“The regular use and enjoyment of their homes and property is a challenge because of all of this added traffic and all of these visitors to their neighbourhood, which it was not designed for. So certainly, I understand their concerns. I also recognize we are in a challenging situation for all sorts of reasons. I just hope that the government will address their concerns in some way,” she tells NEWS 1130.

There is a police presence in the area, but she says neither police nor city bylaw officers have been able to stop the flow of visitors.

“The RCMP have stepped up their efforts on our side of the border, to enforce and remind people that they can’t be crossing the border illegally, and that there are health orders in place. But the challenge, I think remains they can’t be there all the time. They can’t possibly see or do everything,” she says.

“The city’s been engaged to try and step up their parking enforcement and garbage cleaning and so on, to deal with that for the residents. But I can see how our residents are concerned about what they’re witnessing in the park. The lack of social distancing or, people meeting up in the park and then returning into Canada without going into quarantine. So I think the challenge is one for all levels of government to be dealing with.”

She says she empathizes with people who want to be reunited with their loved ones, but says others in Surrey are following public health orders and not seeing anyone outside of their immediate households.

“The challenge for the residents is that what they see on a daily basis is people continuing to skirt the regulations. They’re concerned about that for the health of themselves, and the rest of the public.”

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Dallas Singh is one person who continues to head to the park to see family with his wife, and says people are respecting social distancing and other guidelines.

“My wife, she moved up here, and all of her family, all of her friends are down there. It’s important for her and her mental health, especially to maintain some of these relationships, and even though she can’t go see her friends, she can at least see the immediate members of her family,” he says.

For those who would criticize their decision, he says going for walks or otherwise seeing people outside of one’s immediate household is allowed if it happens outdoors.

“We are allowed to go outside and we are allowed to walk with friends and that sort of stuff and we know that outdoors is a much safer place. So, as long as you are still wearing your mask, as long as you’re still maintaining your distance, and as long as you’re following the protocols, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with meeting up with someone and just having a chat for a little while, while not having any sort of contact with them,” he says.

He is sympathetic to the concerns being raised by residents, and says reopening the parking lot of Peace Arch Park would solve the parking problem while also continuing to deter large groups from gathering at the park itself.