Peace Arch Provincial Park is once again open to Canadians – and visitors to Canada – after remaining closed to the public for nearly two-and-a-half years.
The Canadian side of the park — located on the border between South Surrey and Blaine, Wash. — closed, along with all other provincial parks in B.C., following the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 11, 2020, before reopening for day use in mid-May.
However the large number of people who flocked to the international park to re-connect with loved ones in the U.S., took officials by surprise and in June 2020, the park was once again closed to visitors and remained that way for the next 28 months.
The American side of the park, south of 0 Avenue, meanwhile, remained open to visitors throughout the pandemic, as residents on this side of the border made regular calls for access to the greenspace.
The Ministry of Environment maintained that Peace Arch Provincial Park would re-open to the public once all federal COVID-related restrictions were lifted.
On Oct. 1, those restrictions were abolished, but the park remained closed until being quietly reopened a little more than three weeks later, on Oct. 24. The re-opening followed discussions between the provincial government and the Semiahmoo First Nation, whose land is accessed via Beach Road, the same route that leads into the park.
There were some adjustments made to facilitate the re-opening of the park, however. Peace Arch Park’s parking lot is closed between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. and there is no longer access to the beach on Semiahmoo Bay from the park, a ministry representative confirmed to Peace Arch News.
“BC Parks worked in collaboration with Semiahmoo Nation, the Canadian Border Service Agency, RCMP, and other agencies, to ensure the reopening of the park occurred in a safe and respectful manner,” the representative said.
SFN members, who expressed concerns about the park’s brief reopening in May 2020, cited an overwhelming volume of vehicle traffic at the time, as well as worries over the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Last spring, many of those concerns remained. Access to the reserve lands and the well-being of the SFN were among their largest worries, a spokesperson told PAN in April.
“The open nature of the Peace Arch Park made it challenging to ensure visitors were meeting border entry requirements, which is why the park remained closed for an extended length of time,” the ministry spokesperson said.
“BC Parks does not have the authority or jurisdiction, or technical ability to enforce federal COVID-19 measures for visitors to the park.”
Peace Arch News has reached out to the Semiahmoo First Nation for comment on the decision to re-open the park.
-with files from Tracy Holmes