Not all locals are in support of a recent directive by the BC Parks, particularly the decision to include backcountry camping as one of the activities cancelled by the Province until at least the end of May.
The Kitimat Northern Sentinel previously reported that BC Parks closed its entire parks system. British Columbia also issued a Province-wide ban on camping — both front and backcountry — until at least May 31 with the possibility of future extensions. Crown land camping is still permitted within the province, however due to backcountry closures users must access Crown land via a different route.
In response, the Kitimat Northern Sentinel reached out on social media to hear what locals think about the ban. In response, a number said they feel that, while well-intentioned, it is unnecessary.
“I can literally go to Canadian Tire in Terrace … but I can’t go camping in parks where the sites are separated by trees and 20 to 30 feet!” wrote one resident. “I get the whole social distancing thing but aren’t the campgrounds far enough apart to maintain social distancing?
For others, they felt that camping — especially RV or backcountry camping — posed little-to-no threat when compared to a number of other activities which are still allowed by the Province. One Kitimat couple said the ban dashed their hopes at getting out of town in their trailer, adding that most of the provincial parks have parking spots well within social distancing guidelines.
“I’m not sure why the province believes that if they open the parks people will all of a sudden be hanging out in groups of 10 or more,” they said. “Camping for us and most of the people we know is about getting out of town, away from people and enjoying the outdoors by ourselves.”
There were also those who said camping is a big part of their lifestyle and that amid all the negativity surrounding COVID-19-related news they had been looking forward to being able to get a bit of their annual nature fix, including one woman who said she had to put a camping trip to Revelstoke she had planned with her son and sister on hold due to the new restrictions. “ I am not much of a social type person so the camping lifestyle works for me,” she said. “It is quite depressing to imagine a year without travelling with my trailer in tow.”
While many were quick to point out issues they had with the ban most also expressed a respect for social distancing measures, with the general consensus being that the decision was well-intentioned but that the blanket ban on all forms of camping would likely not have much of an impact on social distancing due to its nature, especially within the backcountry. One commenter pointed out that campgrounds could simply close sites that were in close proximity to each other and have staff increase sanitation measures.
But while many were unhappy with the ban, there were also some Kitimat residents who said they supported it.
“Sadly people can not self regulate,” one commenter wrote. “They can not even social distance at the grocery store and we want to allow them to go camping where they can mingle with others, sit around a campfire and drink?”
Others agreed. “I had reservations for May long weekend but totally see why the campground is staying closed – we went last year and it was packed, lots of people visiting/milling around partying which normally is great fun but during a world pandemic?” one resident said. “Relying on people to do the right thing doesn’t work – they’ve told us to stay home and look at how many are arguing they should be allowed to go do stuff because they are bored or sad or invincible.”
The District of Kitimat told the Kitimat Northern Sentinel it believes that we must all do what we can to keep our communities and populations safe during this crisis.
“Some people in Kitimat are disgruntled with BC Parks access restrictions; others believe this is a prudent course of action during a global pandemic crisis,” the District said in an email. “The District relies on information and advice from the authorities, and therefore encourages residents to follow rules as outlined by the Province. We are fortunate that there are still many safe opportunities to enjoy nature and the outdoors in and around Kitimat.”
One of those opportunities includes access to the Kitimat River which, while previously only open to foot traffic and sectioned off to vehicles in response to reports of individuals not following social distancing, is now once again fully open. The District previously told the Kitimat Northern Sentinel one of the reasons they reopened the area to vehicles was they wanted to provide access to any would-be drift boaters seeking a lazy afternoon on the Kitimat River with the District’s regular boat launch in Radley Park closed due to construction.
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