After Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last week that Parks Canada was suspending visitor services at its sites, Federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson took things a step further Tuesday, announcing that Parks Canada is closing all access to its sites.
Wilkinson’s announcement follows what he said were soaring visitation rates at sites across the country this past weekend.
“I know this weekend was quite beautiful across our great country, which leads many families to spend time outdoors in our parks and heritage sites,” Wilkinson said in a video message. “This, however, is an issue, as our trails and day-use areas were suddenly quite crowded.”
Wilkinson said crowded trails and sites increase the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus, and “that is why Parks Canada is implementing new measures to address this concern.”
Effective at 12:01 am on Wednesday, March 25, “we will temporarily be suspending all motor vehicle access by visitors at all national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas. Parking lots will be closed.”
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Anyone who had been planning to visit a Parks Canada site “should cancel their trip. You need to stay home, respect social distancing practices, and avoid public gatherings,” he added.
“This has been a particularly challenging time for many of us … [and it is] certainly a time of transition as we adjust to this new normal.”
However, he said, “with everyone working together, we certainly can and will get through this, but it will take a monumental effort on everyone’s behalf to ensure that we keep our communities safe.”
Parks Canada said that during the closure, it will “continue to deliver services critical for Canadians, including highway maintenance and snow removal, fire response, dam operations and water management on historic waterways, as well as avalanche forecasting and control, among others.”
In addition, Indigenous traditional activities in Parks Canada locations will continue, “but all users are asked to follow the advice of public health experts on social distancing.”
Finally, “residents of townsites will still be permitted vehicular access, but those with recreational properties within national parks are strongly encouraged to stay home.”