Parks Canada is suspending all vehicle access to national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas at midnight.
Federal minister of the environment Jonathan Wilkinson said in a video posted on Parks Canada’s Facebook page, on the morning of March 24, that despite closing visitor services and facilities on March 19, visitation levels are soaring, increasing the likelihood for spreading COVID-19.
“This is an issue as our trails and day use areas are suddenly quite crowded,” Wilkinson said.
“To be clear: this is unsafe.”
Starting from 12:01 a.m. on March 25, parking lots throughout national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas will be closed.
“You need to stay at home,” Wilkinson said.
Highway and roads which pass through Parks Canada areas, such as the Trans-Canada, will remain open.
Parks Canada will continue provide highway maintenance, snow removal, fire response, dam operations, water management, as well as avalanche forecasting.
Indigenous traditional activities will continue, but Parks Canada are asking all users to follow the advice of public health experts on physical distancing.
Wilkinson said Canada will get through the COVID-19 crisis.
“But it will take monumental efforts on everyone’s behalf.”
There are 48 national parks in Canada, including seven in B.C. and 970 national historic sites, of which 90 are also in this province.
The national parks in B.C. include:
• Glacier National Park
• Gulf Islands National Park Reserve
• Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site
• Kootenay National Park
• Mount Revelstoke National Park
• Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
• Yoho National Park
BC Parks have also suspended services and closed facilities in most provincial parks. However, day-use areas services and some facilities are still available at Mount Seymour, Cypress, Goldstream, Rathtrevor Beach, Miracle Beach and Wells Gray Provincial Park.
Avalanche Canada is also urging all backcountry users to be extra vigilant in the backcountry and avoid any possibility of incidents that could add additional load to the healthcare system. They will issue their last forecast March 28.
“This could be a time to avoid the backcountry. If you choose to head out, every effort should be made to avoid injuries.”
For Glacier National Park, access points to the backcountry and winter permit areas will be closed. For Mount Revelstoke National Park – the Meadows in the Sky Parkway closure will be extended to the base of the mountain, just a short distance off the Highway 1 exit to allow for turnaround. This includes access to the Nels Nelsen parking area.