British Columbia

Caution, co-operation needed as B.C. parks reopen camping, minister says

As B.C. prepares to reopen overnight campsites on June 1, the province's environment minister says he hopes British Columbians exercise caution as they plan their staycations.

Reservations can be made starting May 25 for overnight camping when it resumes June 1

Environment minister George Heyman said the province is relying on people to show 'goodwill and common sense' in enjoying B.C. parks safely this summer. (Ministry of Environment)

As B.C. prepares to reopen overnight campsites on June 1, the province's environment minister says he hopes British Columbians exercise caution as they plan their staycations.

Balancing local tourism while keeping small communities safe from COVID-19 will be an ongoing process for months to come, environment minister George Heyman told CBC's The Early Edition.

"We will get through this together but we have to get through this together by respecting each other, by respecting small communities and not overwhelming them," he said. 

The camping reservation system will be available from May 25. Some provincial parks opened for day use last week.

One area on Vancouver Island was closed after a large group of people partied and camped overnight, Heyman said.

Cool and wet weather over the May long weekend meant overall there were no major issues and parks weren't too crowded, he said. 

Details still being worked out

The province is still working out the details of reopening overnight camping, Heyman said.

In Alberta, campgrounds are scheduled to reopen on June 1 at 50 per cent capacity with reservations limited to Alberta residents

B.C. is still looking at how it will reopen overnight camping and whether to implement measures like this, Heyman said.

"I know I and our government want to make sure that British Columbians have priority access to camping and recreational opportunities in British Columbia, we're just working on the how of that," he said.

The government has consulted with small and Indigenous communities as well as the RCMP in working on its plan to reopen parks, he added.

People are still urged to avoid non-essential travel to avoid spreading COVID-19. The province is following the direction of Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry in deciding how to reopen parks, Heyman said. 

Some historically busy parks, like Joffre Lakes, remain closed because the province has not been able to prepare them with the additional sanitation and staffing needed to keep people safe. 

As people plan their camping trips this summer, Heyman said the province is relying on people to show "goodwill and common sense" in enjoying the outdoors safely. 

"It would be impossible to have enough staff to adequately control and police the 800-some parks that we have open," he said.

Heyman said he's hoping stronger measures don't have to be put in place, but is optimistic based on how things have gone so far. 

"Overall, British Columbians seem happy to have new places to get outside, to get fresh air, to get exercise, and are being respectful," he said. 

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