Smoke haze from forest fires burning in Alberta and British Columbia hangs over Banff, Alta., in Banff National Park, Friday, July 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Twenty-nine of Canada’s 48 national parks to reopen to day-use visitors June 1

All national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas have been closed for weeks

More than half of Canada’s national parks — including Banff in Alberta, Pacific Rim in British Columbia and Cape Breton Highlands in Nova Scotia — are to reopen June 1.

Minister of Environment Jonathan Wilkinson says 29 of the 48 national parks will open for day use, and there will be access to washrooms.

“It’s an opportunity for folks, particularly those who live reasonably close to national parks, to be able to get out in nature in a manner that can allow physical distancing,” he told The Canadian Press.

All national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas have been closed for weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Wilkinson said parks such as Banff, Jasper and Waterton in Alberta will open day-use areas and trails to visitors.

In Banff, the town and many of its businesses have been preparing to reopen on June 1.

“This has been devastating for our town that relies solely on tourism as our economy,” said Mayor Karen Sorensen, adding it was difficult to ask visitors to stay away.

“We wanted to make sure we had protocols in place to make it safe not only for our community, but also for our visitors.”

The town’s council decided Monday to close two blocks of its often-crowded main street, Banff Avenue, to vehicle traffic to make more room for pedestrians.

“If … people need to line up to get into one of our businesses on Banff Avenue, there will be space,” said Sorensen. “There will be space for some outdoor patio seating and some outdoor retailing opportunities and there will still be space for outdoor pedestrian flow.”

Banff is the country’s busiest national park, with about four million visitors annually.

READ MORE: Canada’s national parks, historic sites to be at least partially reopened by June 1

Other national parks reopening June 1 include Riding Mountain in Manitoba and Grasslands in Saskatchewan.

Wilkinson said some parks, including many in Northern Canada, will remain closed to reduce travel to areas sensitive to the spread of COVID-19.

“There’s also some of the parks that are co-managed with First Nations, like Haida Gwaii, where the First Nation has asked that the park not be reopened,” he said.

Camping, he said, will still not be allowed in national parks until at least June 21.

“Camping is going to be something that a lot of Canadians are going to look at, given that travelling outside the country is going to be particularly challenging,” said Wilkinson.

The British Columbia Parks website crashed soon after it opened summer bookings for provincial campsites Monday, while Alberta Parks saw nearly 40,000 campsite bookings on its first day of offering rebookings.

READ MORE: BC Parks reservations surge as campgrounds reopen

Many provincial governments have reopened camping for June 1, but are only allowing their own residents to reserve spots to prevent non-essential travel.

Wilkinson said Parks Canada will have protocols in place once they allow camping, but the agency doesn’t plan to put in restrictions by province.

“We are a national agency that belongs to all people who live in this country,” he said. “We will be telling people that they need to be paying attention to the travel guidance of their respective province or territory.”

Some governments have restricted travel in and out, while others have asked people not to travel to their jurisdictions.

Wilkinson said there could be restrictions on a park-by-park basis.

“In some cases, we’ll be opening more things because we think it’s set up in a way that can accommodate physical distancing,” he said. “In others, where there are some … trails that are extremely busy, we may not open those because we can’t allow for safe usage.”

Other possibilities could include setting limits on how many people can visit at a time or closing parking lots at popular areas.

Wilkinson said he realizes Canadians have been through a lot in recent months.

“Many have stuck very, very close to home,” he said. “One of the key things for us is trying to give Canadians opportunities to get out, as summer comes, to enjoy nature.

“It’s part of what Canada is for most Canadians.”

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusParks Canada

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Search and Rescue and RCMP investigate after abandoned kayak found on Kitimat River

KSAR and Kitimat RCMP confirmed the owner lost the recently-discovered kayak a couple of weeks ago.

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

Four air ambulance flights out of Terrace delayed or cancelled

Pandemic precautions caused nighttime closure of service station providing weather data to pilots

Skeena Resources, Tahltan prez excited by purchase of Eskay Creek

Skeena gets full control of mine, Barrick gets 12 per cent of Skeena and a one per cent royalty

Tamitik Status of Women granted $500,000 to support housing construction project

The funds will be used to support the construction of second stage and affordable rental housing.

B.C. records 62 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths since Friday

Province has just over 200 active cases

Canadians torn on scaling back COVID-19 benefits to save money: poll

Of those surveyed, 78 per cent said they were worried about the size of the deficit

‘Trauma equals addiction’: Why some seek solace in illicit drugs

Part 2: Many pushed into addiction by ‘toxic stress,’ says White Rock psychologist

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

B.C. government prepares for COVID-19 economic recovery efforts

New measures after July consultation, Carole James says

Tree planters get help with COVID-19 protective measures

Ottawa funds extra transportation, sanitizing for crews

Trudeau apologizes for not recusing himself from WE decision

He says his and his family’s longtime involvement with the WE organization should have kept him out of the discussions

Most Read