British Columbia

B.C. closes provincial campsites to non-residents this summer

Campsites in B.C. provincial parks will be closed to people from outside the province this summer, as officials continue to adjust the rules to the coronavirus pandemic.

Non-residents with existing reservations will be given refunds

Hikers at Upper Joffre Lakes near Pemberton, B.C. The provincial government is rolling out a new public safety plan at the park, which has become one of the busiest in the province. (Leon Wang/Shutterstock)

Campsites in B.C. provincial parks will be closed to people from outside the province this summer, as officials continue to adjust the rules to the coronavirus pandemic.

BC Parks said in a statement on Thursday that non-B.C. residents who already have reservations should call before June 15 to cancel and receive a full refund.

Reservations made after next Monday by non-residents will be subject to immediate cancellation without refund. 

"The health and safety of our BC Parks staff, park operators and visitors continue to be our top priority. We are all in this together," the agency said in the statement. 

According to an environment ministry spokesperson, all campers will be asked to show ID proving their residency when they arrive at the parks.

'It's just a prudent step'

Asked about the parks closure at his daily briefing, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the closure has been done, in part, to ensure British Columbians have first and only dibs on their provincial campsites for a summer during which they are not supposed to travel outside B.C.

"What we're trying to do ... is to control, to a degree, non-essential travel or overnight travel. It's just a prudent step that's being taken. It's also being done to ensure access should such campsites be reopened sometime in the summer ... British Columbians have full access."

BC Parks did not say how it will determine who is a resident. 

The province started reopening some provincial parks ahead of the May long weekend, roughly a month after they were shuttered amid concerns over COVID-19. 

There are also new regulations around bookings, including restrictions on double sites, which are no longer bookable as single sites for two separate parties.

Camping during COVID-19

BC Parks will reopen their reservation system at 7 a.m. PT on May 25 for residents only, and recreational camping will be allowed in those parks again as of June 1.

"I expect there will be a mad rush of people," said Joss Penny, executive director of the British Columbia Lodging and Campgrounds Association.

Penny said there will be some changes in campgrounds this season, including increased cleaning and restrictions on gatherings at sites. Campers will also be expected to bring their own hygiene products, such as sanitizer and gloves.

He said many private campgrounds are allowing a maximum of six guests per site.

While BC Parks is restricting reservations to residents only, Penny said private campgrounds will still have to accept Canadian citizens. He expects private sites in the eastern part of the province will have guests from Alberta sometime this summer.

"Although they may not be there in June, they'll certainly be here at some point," said Penny.

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