Wildfire risk leads to hiking, camping restrictions in Nova Scotia forests
Restrictions on provincial Crown land as well as Kejimkujik National Park's back country
Hiking, camping, fishing and using off-highway vehicles in forests across Nova Scotia is being restricted due to concerns about the spread of wildfires.
Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines says the restrictions on provincial Crown land will be effective at noon on Tuesday. He says people will still be able to visit provincial parks, beaches and campgrounds that are close to roads.
But areas that require access through wooded areas will be restricted.
For example, Cape Split Provincial Park is open but access to its trail system is not, because it goes through the woods. On the other hand, access to beaches such as Lawrencetown and Rainbow Haven won't be restricted because visitors can easily walk from the parking lot to the picnic or beach areas.
"We recognize these restrictions pose an inconvenience for Nova Scotians and visitors. However, our top priority has to be safety," he said Monday.
"Conditions in some regions of the province haven't been this dry in 15 years."
Kejimkujik's back country closed
Workers at parks will be spreading the word, and anyone caught trying to sneak in could face a fine of $180.
Hines said the restrictions will remain in effect for two weeks before the province will reassess the situation.
Parks Canada is also closing back country campsites and trails within Kejimkujik National Park until further notice, the agency said Monday.
28 parties in the woods as of Monday afternoon
"We'll be contacting everyone who is currently in the back country and asking them to make their way back into the front country section of the park," said Danielle Hickey, a spokeswoman for Parks Canada.
"We're not asking for a rush or an evacuation, we want people to be safe in their return. But we are asking them to begin their way."
Hickey said there are 28 parties in Kejimkujik's back country as of Monday afternoon. They will be contacted by phone and if they can't be reached, staff will be sent into the woods to look for them.
Permits required for some activity
The provincial restrictions will also apply to forestry and commercial activities. Hines is encouraging companies to restrict their activities to the evening hours, when it's cooler.
People working, hunting or fishing on Crown land will also need permits from local DNR offices, Hines said.
"This situation requires the co-operation of everyone who uses our forests," he said.
Seven Mile Lake fire out of control
The travel restriction also affects private property. Anyone conducting commercial activity is required to get permission from private landowners to access land held privately.
Walter Fanning, the executive director of regional services for the Department of Natural Resources, says it's important to know where people are in case of a wildfire.
Hines says it's costing up to $200,000 a day to fight three forest fires in the western part of the province.
Two of the fires are contained, but a 140-hectare fire in Seven Mile Lake is still considered out of control.
With files from the CBC's Elizabeth Chiu and Craig Paisley