The tendency for Vancouverites to flock to outdoor spots to make the most of sunny breaks between rainy periods has proven to be something that has posed challenges for attempts to slow down the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to a lack of physical distancing being practiced by Vancouverites, the park board had previously shut down parking lots at beaches and parks on March 22 in an effort to reduce numbers of visitors. Signs about physical distancing were also erected, and logs were removed from beaches to discourage people sitting near each other.
Sports fields and courts, recreational spaces, and playgrounds were also closed down across Metro Vancouver.
However, due to an ongoing lack of public compliance, the park board is now taking further measures to ensure the safety of visitors.
The Vancouver Park Board stated in a news release today (April 7) that after the closure of all parking lots in Stanley Park, visitors have continued to drive to the park, particularly when sunny, and have been parking their vehicles illegally on the road.
The Vancouver Park Board announced today (April 7) that it will be closing vehicle access to Stanley Park indefinitely as of Wednesday (April 8) to reduce the number of people in the park and to ensure physical distancing can be implemented.
As the closures will also create more space for cyclists and pedestrians, cyclists will be encouraged to move off the seawall and to instead use Stanley Park Drive in order to ensure physical distance from pedestrians.
Physical barriers and signs will be placed at access points to the park, with additional support from park rangers and Vancouver police. Digital signs on Georgia Street, English Bay, and the Stanley Park Causeway will also notify drivers about the closure. (The causeway will remain open to traffic.)
Vehicle exceptions will include emergency services, the number 19 bus, and city service vehicles.
On April 4, the park board launched the Park Board Champions program with about 25 staff in bright green vests positioned at beaches, parks, and the seawall to raise awareness about physical distancing.
By the time the program launched, park rangers had issued over 1,400 warnings to visitors to parks and beaches who weren’t remaining two metres (six feet) away from others not from the same household.
Parks Canada, B.C. Parks, and Metro Vancouver also previously closed vehicle access or closed parks and related services and facilities due to increased visitor numbers and a lack of public adherence to health advisories.
Meanwhile, the City of Vancouver has expressed being encouraged by the majority of businesses that are complying with provincial health orders, and so far only one business license has been suspended.