BC Parks are slated to begin gradually re-open as of Thursday, May 14, 2020, with some restrictions. (Black Press Media file photo)

Many B.C. parks to re-open, but visitors must adhere to the ‘golden rules’

Residents urged to practise COVID-19 protocols as some outdoor recreation restrictions are relaxed

Many of British Columbia’s provincial parks, protected areas and marine parks are to begin opening for day use today (Thursday, May 14), including many beaches, some picnic areas, washrooms, boat launches and trails, but park-goers must meet the guidelines of the B.C. Provincial Health Officer.

These guidelines include physical distancing, hand hygiene, not touching your face, coughing into your sleeve, and if you’re demonstrating any symptoms of a cold or flu, you’re to not leave your place of residence and stay away from others. The province is discouraging non-essential travel, and encouraging people to stay in their own communities. (Check this website for more details on travel.)

BC Parks says some parks may take longer than anticipated to reopen and some popular B.C. parks that generally attract large crowds will remain closed. However, the province expects that provincial campgrounds and back-country camping in most locations will reopen on June 1. (Check this website for each park’s current status.)

National parks are also slated to resume some operations on June 1, with some trails, day use areas, green spaces and recreational boating available at national parks, historic sites and waterways and national marine conservation areas. Camping will remain off limits until at least June 21, when the federal government will reassess whether it should be allowed.

However, the premier of British Columbia has said that travel to second homes and vacation spots is out of the question for the Victoria Day long weekend.

“Every corner of B.C. is spectacular,” Premier John Horgan said. “Wherever you live is an outstanding place. Stay there and enjoy it.”

In addition, as B.C. begins to carefully relax some of the restrictions imposed because of the deadly COVID-19 virus, the province’s vital tourism industry is also planning to move into a new phase. Destination BC – a provincially funded, industry-led Crown corporation that supports tourism in British Columbia – is shifting from its #exploreBClater concept to developing a new campaign to promote hyper-local travel.

“[It’s] to be a tourist in their hometown,” Marsha Walden, CEO of Destination BC, said in a statement posted on May 8. “[It’s] to reignite interest in our museums, galleries and cultural sites, to remind our residents of how parks, beaches and outdoor spaces can strengthen their mental and physical well-being, and to support the small tourism businesses that are the foundation of our industry – all while adhering to the provincial health directives that are in place to protect us all.”

Destination BC plans to focus on hyper-local marketing, with an #exploreBClocal campaign designed to urge people to be a “tourist in their hometown.”

The statement from Destination BC said it will be possible to visit parks, beaches and

outdoor spaces and support small tourism operators, “all while adhering to the provincial health directives that are in place to protect us all.“

At $6.7-billion in expenditures, it’s estimated that British Columbians spent nearly as much travelling abroad last year (excluding day trips to the U.S.), as the $7.3 billion that international travellers spent in B.C., according to the Destination BC statement.

Meanwhile, “all travellers arriving in B.C. from outside of Canada are required by law to self-isolate for 14 days and complete a self-isolation plan,” the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website says.

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