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

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

Delta Mayor George Harvie. (Submitted photo)
Mayor asks Fraser Health to reconsider North Delta vaccination site

Harvie wants a North Delta clinic to complement the South Delta location

Surrey RCMP are investigating a reported assault at Panorama Ridge Secondary. (Shane MacKichan photos)
UPDATE: Two youths arrested after assault with a weapon at Panorama Ridge Secondary in Surrey

School placed on a ‘hold and secure’ until safety of all students confirmed

Image Surrey.ca
Surrey to pony up one-third of cost to cover Cloverdale lacrosse box in 2022

This will be at the Cloverdale Athletic Park at 64th Avenue and 168th Street

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

On some blocks in North Delta it was nearly end-to-end refuse during the city’s 2018 Spring Clean-Up. (James Smith photo)
Delta’s Large Item Pick-Up Program starts today

Beginning March 1, residents will be able to dispose of up to four large household items per year

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

The fundraising effort to purchase 40 hectares west of Cottonwood Lake announced its success this week. Photo: Submitted
Nelson society raises $400K to save regional park from logging project

The Nelson community group has raised $400,000 to purchase 40 hectares of forest

AstraZeneca’s vaccine ready for use at the vaccination centre in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Reichel/dpa via AP
National panel advises against using Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on seniors

NACI panel said vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are preferred for seniors ‘due to suggested superior efficacy’

A public health order has extended the types of health care professionals who can give the COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
‘It’s great that midwives are included’ in rollout of B.C.’s COVID vaccine plan, says college

The order will help the province staff the mass vaccination clinics planned for April

Shipping containers are seen at the Fairview Cove Container Terminal in Halifax on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Canadian economy contracted 5.4 per cent in 2020, worst year on record

Drop was largely due to shutdowns in the spring as COVID began to spread

The Nanaimo Clippers in action at Frank Crane Arena in early 2020. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo Clippers for sale, owner says hockey won’t be back to normal any time soon

Wes Mussio says he’s had numerous inquiries about the junior A club already

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Most Read