Massive cinder blocks were knocked out of place by flooding at the Othello Tunnels. (Adventures R Us YouTube screenshot)

Massive cinder blocks were knocked out of place by flooding at the Othello Tunnels. (Adventures R Us YouTube screenshot)

Most provincial parks open in time for May long weekend, despite winter storm damage

Parks around Hope and Lytton still closed after year filled with fire, heat and landslides

B.C.’s recreation areas were hit hard by the extreme weather last year, especially in the Fraser Valley and Fraser Canyon.

And now that camping and hiking season has arrived, BC Parks says that most of their provincial parks are ready and waiting for visitors. But with the large numbers of people wanting to get out and connect with nature, it’s important to check online for accessibility.

There are still a number of parks that are closed to the public, especially around Chilliwack and Hope, as they suffered heavy damage in November.

“It’s important that people book ahead on the new BC Parks website and check online before heading out to ensure they know the latest conditions in order to have the best outdoor experience possible,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “While the majority of parks are open to enjoy, some remain closed for repairs following the unprecedented extreme weather events last year, which makes it more important than ever to plan ahead.”

Parks that remain fully closed include several in the Hope area — Skagit Valley Park, Nahatlatch Park, and Coquihalla Canyon Park (where Othello Tunnels are located) — and Skihist Park in Lytton. Some parks have partial closures due to damaged backcountry trails or other circumstances.

At the popular Sasquatch Provincial Park near Harrison Hot Springs, all roads have been repaired. All affected campgrounds at E.C. Manning Provincial Park will be ready to open in time for the summer season, though some trails remain damaged and will be assessed and repaired once snow cover melts.

BC Parks has seen significant uptake in online reservations, with more than 100,000 reservations booked on the agency’s new web system since it launched in late March.

While most provincial parks are fully open, recent wildfires, extreme heat and flooding caused significant damage to trails, campgrounds and facilities in more than a dozen provincial parks in 2021. Repairs have been made at several parks so they can open for the coming season, but some remain temporarily closed.

That’s why it’s important to plan ahead and avoid disappointment.

“Some of our parks were hit hard by last year’s extreme weather, and people should ensure they have the latest information before they head out to enjoy B.C.’s spectacular natural ecosystems,” said Kelly Greene, Parliamentary Secretary for Environment. “We have been working diligently to restore as many parks and facilities as possible so they are safe for people to visit and enjoy. Once repaired, some areas may look different from past years, and it is a reminder of the power of nature and the need for us to consider climate resiliency as we repair and improve our park facilities.”

Some of the hardest-hit parks are in and around the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley, such as Cultus Lake Provincial Park near Chilliwack. At Cultus Lake Park, floods moved rock and debris through the entire Maple Bay day-use area, covering picnic tables, the amphitheatre, grassy areas and the beach. Crews have been removing damaged picnic tables and contouring the day-use area at Maple Bay, which is expected to open this summer with a reduced number of picnic tables and smaller area for picnicking. Restoration of all Cultus Lake Park campgrounds at Entrance Bay and Clear Creek is now finished.

“I’ve seen first-hand the recovery effort going on at Maple Bay day-use area at Cultus Lake, and it has improved leaps and bounds since November,” said Kelli Paddon, MLA for Chilliwack-Kent. “It will look a little different than we’re used to when it’s ready, but I have no doubt that families will enjoy visiting just the same when it opens again early this summer. Until then, the rest of Cultus Lake Provincial Park’s public areas are open for the season. I am grateful to all the crews who have been working to clean up, repair and rejuvenate our parks and beaches from last year’s extreme weather that caused devastating floods, landslides and fires.”

READ MORE: BC Parks not assessing Othello Tunnels near Hope until conditions improve


@CHWKcommunity
jessica.peters@abbynews.com

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