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April 8, 2020 All BC Parks closing
BC Parks is immediately closing all provincial parks in response to the widespread call for increased action to address COVID-19.

Province closing certain parks, recreation areas
BC Parks continues to monitor whether people visiting provincial parks are complying with the physical distancing required to stop the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

BC Parks status during COVID-19 response
Provincial parks are a great place for people in B.C. to get out and enjoy nature, while following the social distancing directives from British Columbia’s provincial health officer (PHO).

BC Parks Re–Opening Frequently Asked Questions

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Re–Opening Parks
Why did BC Parks close in the first place?

Prior to the closure on April 8, visitation at some BC Parks increased substantially and numerous problems were experienced: people were congregating in larger groups and not practicing physical distancing; environmental impacts were occurring; and staff and operator safety became an issue.

BC Parks enacted a temporary system-wide closure to protect the health and safety of visitors, employees, volunteers and our partners.

Why are you opening now?

The PHO and the Minister of Health have emphasized the importance of getting people outdoors and recreating again in a controlled and safe manner – we agree.

BC Parks is taking a cautious and deliberate approach to reopening for the safety of our Park Operators, staff, and visitors.

Why are you only opening day-use?

BC Parks is taking a phased approach to safely lift the system closure, focusing initially on day-use parks and protected areas that can accommodate: measured use and lower environmental impacts and which can also maintain physical distancing guidelines.

BC Parks is prioritizing the opening of parks and facilities that allow for:

  1. Physical distancing (i.e., enough room for park visitors to give each other space in the parking lots, on trails, while still getting out and enjoying our natural spaces).
  2. Maintenance of service levels (e.g., garbage collection, pit toilets, washrooms, and gates/entry points).

In a later phase, the Discover Camping reservation system and campgrounds will be re-opened along with more day use.

When can I go camping?

Campgrounds are seasonal operations and Park Operators are working to prepare facilities, services, and hire staff while determining how to best accommodate social distancing between staff and visitors.

Most campgrounds will open for overnight visitors on June 1, 2020, while group campsites will remain closed until further notice.

How can I tell if the park I want to visit is open?

Please visit www.bcparks.ca/covid-19/parks-affected

Ongoing Closures
Why are some parks still closed?

Some of our most popular parks regularly experience high visitor volumes, resulting in crowding of facilities, packed parking lots, and safety issues including parking along the highway. Some even have long lineups to take pictures, such as Joffre Lakes. These high-use parks require substantial staff presence, high service levels, and in-person visitor management.

Given how busy some of our most popular parks can get, these environments do not easily allow for the physical distancing recommended by the PHO. Large numbers of visitors also have increased environmental impacts. We are keeping these parks closed for now in order to keep staff, Park Operators, park visitors and the parks themselves safe.

Will any parks stay closed all summer?

Due to public health and safety concerns, some parks will remain closed for the time being. Affected park pages will be updated as details become available. Visit our website at www.bcparks.ca/covid-19/parks-affected for park-specific information.

How are park closures being enforced

Park closures are being enforced through regular monitoring and patrols by park operators and park rangers. Anyone found in a closed park will be evicted and could face a $115 fine.

Most day-use areas will re-open to the public on May 14th, 2020. Until then, both public and vehicle access remains prohibited in all parks.

All provincial campgrounds remain closed until June 1st, while group campsites will remain closed until further notice.

Some of our high use parks may remain closed for the rest of the season.

Other Jurisdictions
I thought BC Parks were closed. Why have some parks in my area stayed open?

The BC Parks system-wide closure applied only to provincial parks

Similar to BC Parks’ approach, Parks Canada enacted a system-wide closure of all national parks, and Rec Sites and Trails (part of the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources, and Rural Development) enacted a closure as well.

Across the province, some municipalities and regional districts have chosen to keep locally and regionally managed parks open. These parks do not fall within the jurisdiction of the BC Parks system.

Why are other provinces opening their parks earlier than BC?

BC Parks has been working with our colleagues on the Canadian Parks Council, sharing information and plans for re-opening parks systems across our diverse provinces and territories. Many provinces are planning phased re-openings along similar timelines, give or take a week or two.

BC Parks has an added challenge of being one of biggest and most diverse parks systems with more than 1000 parks and protected areas covering more than 14% of BC’s land base. This size and scope make it unique in the provincial context and adds to the complexity of re-opening.

Services and Facilities
What services and facilities will be opening?

Services and facilities are park-specific, and will vary in availability depending on location and whether they easily allow for the physical distancing necessary to keep staff, Park Operators, and visitors safe.

Once day-use areas re-open, visitors will have access to facilities such as pit toilets, toilet buildings, picnic tables, benches, trails, viewpoints beaches, docks, and boat launches. Visitor centres, nature houses, and PO concession buildings may be re-opened on a case by case basis.

All services and facilities that are opened will be operated and maintained in accordance with PHO guidelines.

For park-specific information, refer to the park page www.bcparks.ca/explore/parks

Will washrooms and shower buildings be open?

Washrooms and toilet facilities in day-use parks will be open.

Washrooms and shower buildings in campgrounds may be open; however, these will be phased in with appropriate safety measures in place as campgrounds re-open. Check the applicable park page for details.

Will boat launches be open?

We know many park visitors are keen to get out on the water, while others may want to access their inholdings in parks. With many of our day-use areas opening May 14th, boat launches in day use areas will be available for park visitors.

Check out http://bcparks.ca/covid-19/parks-affected for more information on the status of a specific park.

Travelling to Parks
Does this mean I can I travel to visit my favorite park?

As we get back outdoors, please stay local and only visit the parks that are closest to your home. While we all look forward to future road trips and exploring new parks, we need to ensure small communities are not overwhelmed by people who are not following advice to avoid non-essential travel.

Please keep your visit close to home.

What is your policy on out-of-province visitors?

BC Parks has limited campsite reservations to BC residents only for the 2020 camping season.

This is not the time for inter-provincial travel for recreational purposes. Although inter-provincial travel is not restricted at this time, public health officers are advising for people to stay close to home for the time being.

Non-BC residents with existing reservations are asked to contact the call centre before June 15 to cancel and receive a full refund.

New reservations made after May 25th found to be made by non-BC residents may be subject to immediate cancellation without refund. Additionally, you may be refused service upon arrival at the campground.

Safety
Is it safe to visit parks again?

BC Parks is doing everything we can to ensure parks are safe for visitors.

We ask that visitors abide by PHO guidelines around physical distancing, particularly in areas that experience crowding and visitor traffic like parking lots, washroom facilities, and on trails.

It is up to all of us to do our part to ensure Park Operators, staff, and visitors remain safe so we can keep parks open.

What kinds of safety measures has BC Parks put in place?

BC Parks is undertaking a phased re-opening that prioritizes the opening of lower-risk parks (less frequented, easier to practice social distancing).

BC parks has been working with Operators and to ensure general work practices, procedures, and cleaning standards comply with PHO and WorkSafe BC requirements. However, park visitors are responsible for ensuring they bring hygiene products (e.g., hand sanitizer), as we cannot guarantee availability in all park locations. Visitors also need to take personal responsibility for their own safety, refraining from touching surfaces unnecessarily and washing hands or using hand sanitizer frequently. And if you are sick, please stay home and visit another time.

We need all visitors to do their part to keep Park Operators, staff, and park visitors safe.

What does less visitor traffic mean for wildlife?

Visitors should be aware that wildlife patterns and activity may have changed and we may experience more interaction than we have in the past. Please be careful, and remain aware of your surroundings at all times.

Policy Changes
Are there any policy changes visitors should be aware of?

While most BC Parks policies remain the same, we ask that you abide by the PHO guidelines around physical distancing, keeping 2-meters of space between yourself and others while visiting parks.

There will be no exceptions to camping party size. And, depending on the campground and nature of the site layout, there may be additional measure taken to ensure social distancing between camping parties.

Look for signage in the park to provide additional park-specific information.

Parking
If the parking lot is full, can I park on the street?

Many people are looking forward to getting back out into parks and we are expecting high visitor volumes as we re-open day-use areas. A full parking lot is a good signal that a park is experiencing a high volume of visitors.

If you arrive to find the parking lot is full, you may have to reschedule your visit for another day or another time. Alternatively, you could try another trailhead (often, our parks have multiple access points), or try another park close to home.

As always, parking along roadways and highways is not permitted.

If parking lots are busy, how am I supposed to practice physical distancing?

It’s up to each of us to work with fellow park visitors and work together to provide each other the ability to practice safe self-distancing. Practice patience and provide other visitors with the time and space required to safely exit or enter their vehicles.

Discover Camping
When will campgrounds re-open?

All BC Parks campgrounds will remain closed until June 1, 2020.

Not all campgrounds are expected to open at once; opening dates will depend on Park Operator capacity to provide services and maintain safe health practices.

Availability of campgrounds may vary from region to region. Check out http://bcparks.ca/covid-19/parks-affected for anticipated re-opening dates for specific parks.

When can I make a reservation?

The Discover Camping reservation system will be back online on May 25 at 7:00AM PT to accept camping reservations.

What if I already have a reservation?

Some existing reservations will be cancelled because we won’t be able to offer some sites that don’t allow appropriate distancing (for example, group camping sites). Existing reservations that are not cancelled for June 1 onward will be honoured, provided that the applicable campground has re-opened. Those with existing reservations beyond June 1 who would like to cancel them will have until June 15 to contact the call centre to cancel without penalty. Existing reservations cancelled after June 15 will face regular cancelation penalties, as will new reservations made after May 25.

The DC team will be reaching out to Discover Camping customers via email, providing more information the coming weeks.

As always, please reach out to our Park Info team via email with any DC-related questions.

What about Back-country and Marine camping?

All BC Parks camping facilities remain closed until June 1. This closure includes overnight facilities both in the back-country and in marine parks.

In some high-use areas, backcountry campgrounds will remain closed for the time being.

For park-specific information, refer to the park page at http://bcparks.ca/explore/parks/

Park Use Permit Holders
Will Park Use Permit holders be able to access parks?

As closure orders are modified and repealed, Park Use Permit holders will be able to resume permit-related activities according to the following timeline:

  • Phase 1 – May 14th, 2020
    Re-opening of most parks for day-use activities only
    Activities such as guided hiking, nature tours, canoe rentals, access to private infrastructure, and research may resume provided they do not involve overnight use of a park. Generally, this means no access to any part of a park between 11pm and 7am the next day, or as otherwise indicated by sign.
    Please be aware that the PUP holder is responsible for enforcing PHO guidelines and monitoring employees and customers to ensure all activities undertaken are in accordance with the recommended guidelines.
  • Phase 2 – June 1st, 2020
    Re-opening of overnight use along with most camping facilities and any remaining day-use areas in most parks
    Overnight camping activities (both front- and back-country) and overnight use of privately-owned recreational facilities may resume
  • Phase 3 – TBD
    High-risk, high-use parks will be assessed on a case-by-case basis to determine when public access may safely resume
    Any permitted activities may only be undertaken in closed parks by written exemption.
Do Park Use Permit holders still need an exemption to enter parks?

Once park closure has been lifted, PUP holders no longer require an exemption to enter the park. Exemptions to enter a park only necessary if the park remains closed.

Visit http://bcparks.ca/covid-19/parks-affected to check the status of a specific park.

Are there any other requirements for PUP holders to resume activities?

Prior to resuming activities in parks, PUP holders should ensure that their permit is in good standing:

  • Their permit fees have been paid;
  • They have submitted required reports and operating plans; and
  • They hold proper insurance for the activities being undertaken.
Volunteers and ER Wardens
Will Volunteers be able to access parks? What about ER Wardens?

As BC Parks undertakes the phased re-opening of parks, Volunteers and ER Wardens will be able to resume activities in parks that have re-opened.

All volunteer activities must receive BC Parks approval prior to commencing. Volunteers can request approval to undertake activities in re-opened parks, provided PHO guidelines, including physical distancing practices, are followed, monitored, and enforced by the volunteers.

BC Parks Staff and Park Operators
Who are Park Operators? How is that different than BC Parks staff?

Park Operators are contractors who provide a service for parks, managing campgrounds, facilities, and running day to day operations within specific parks. You will likely have encountered Park Operators when checking into a campground or paying camping fees.

BC Parks staff are provincial employees, including Park Rangers, Area Supervisors, and other park officers who patrol parks and ensure visitors are recreating safely.

You’ll likely see both Park Operators and BC Parks Staff when you’re visiting BC Parks.