As stay at home orders and quarantine measures spread worldwide, open spaces and parks have been one of the final remaining places outside of one’s own home to visit, but that is quickly changing.
BC Parks, the provincial park system in British Columbia, Canada, decided as of today that they will close all parks province-wide until May 31, citing concerns of overcrowded trailheads, a lack of physical distancing, and environmental damage.
“With the desire of the public to get outdoors, many parks have already experienced peak season levels of use that have resulted in overwhelmed parking lots, trails and trailheads, making physical distancing difficult, if not impossible in some locations,” said BC Parks in a statement.
“The closure is also necessary to ensure the continued health and safety of our visitors, employees, park operators and their staff, volunteers and park contractors. By taking this action, we align with federal and provincial directives for people to stay home to reduce COVID-19 transmission risk.”
Responses on Instagram were mixed, with some thanking BC Parks for the closure, and others condemning the organization.
“Why a blanket closure to all parks??! Not all parks are seeing high traffic, and outdoor activity is truly helping to keep spirits high in these crazy times,” said one commenter.
In total, the closure affects around 600 parks throughout the province, many with mountain biking trails. On BC Park’s website, they state that are almost 4,000 miles of hiking trails throughout the system, although they don’t differentiate what might be multi-use or mountain bike trails in the provincial parks.
One other commenter cited the conflicting messages from the government throughout the pandemic.
“You tell us to go outside. And then close all the parks.” They continued, reflecting on more possible unintended consequences. “This is just gonna get more people sick as we all get stuck in cities.”
Not everyone was in disagreement with the park’s decision, though.
“The mandate is to stay home, and go out for necessities. I have depression and have been laid off, I GET the need to go outside. But if we don’t live in areas that allow separate enough outside time, we need to stay inside. It is the fastest way that we can flatten the curve and be able to go out again.”
The closure means that temporarily, public and vehicle access is prohibited in all BC Parks, and trails, roads, day-use areas, beaches, lakes, boat launches, and backcountry areas are closed to the public. BC Parks plans to enforce closures through regular patrols and a possible $115 CAD fine.