COVID-19: Parks Canada closes vehicle access to all national parks due to high visitation levels

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      After attempts to discourage visitors to national parks across Canada, Parks Canada is echoing messages by politicians by asking Canadians to remain at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Although Parks Canada had previously announced that it would be temporarily closing visitor services and facilities on March 19, the measure did not stop visitors from flocking to the great outdoors across the country.

      Instead of observing reduced visitor numbers, Parks Canada reported “high visitation levels” at several locations, which has raised concerns about public safety, health concerns, and COVID-19 transmission.

      Consequently, Parks Canada announced today (March 24) that it is closing all visitor motor-vehicle access to all national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas as of midnight tonight until further notice.

      The closures include vehicle services, trails, washrooms, day-use facilities, showers, visitor centres, and all camping facilities (including oTENTiks, yurts, and backcountry camping).

      While all parking facilities and related services at Parks Canada locations are being closed, all highways and roadways through these locations will remain open (parking is not permitted on highways or roadways).

      Parks Canada had previously announced on March 17 that it would not be taking any new reservations until April 30.

      For further information about closures and changes, visit the Parks Canada website.

      Meanwhile, the B.C. government announced the suspension of all camping and the temporary closure of services and facilities (including washrooms, day-use facilities, visitor centres, and nature houses) in provincial parks from March 20.

      In the Lower Mainland, park boards across Metro Vancouver have been closing playgrounds and outdoor sports spaces while the Vancouver Park Board took the additional step of closing parking lots at beaches and parks by March 23.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook