British Columbia

Popular B.C. Interior beach closed by local First Nation amid COVID-19 concerns

The Lower Similkameen Indian Band (LSIB) has closed the Chopaka Bridge Beach, which is a private beach on reserve land, because it worries tourists might bring COVID-19 to the community.

Lower Similkameen Indian Band considers closing Chopaka Bridge Beach permanently to non-members

Chopaka Bridge Beach is now closed to the general public. (Submitted by Keith Crow)

A popular beach in B.C.'s southern Interior is now closed to the public due to concerns visitors might spread COVID-19 to the local First Nation. 

The Lower Similkameen Indian Band (LSIB) has closed the Chopaka Bridge Beach, which is a private beach on reserve land. 

Chief Keith Crow said over the years it's struggled with a high number of tourists in the area, and often the beach becomes overcrowded, making it difficult for members to access on its own land. 

A number of tourists have already come to the beach this summer, and Crow worries that outsiders, particularly from out of province or out of country, might bring COVID-19 to the community. 

"This year with pandemic happening and everything that's going on in the States, we have a lot of U.S. travelers that end up stopping at this beach. We said you know what, it's time to keep our members safe," Crow told Daybreak South host Chris Walker. 

"We live beside a very big vacation hot spot and there's lots of traffic, and it's gotten to the point in the last, even the last couple of weeks, that there's no room for our members to be there at all. So we said no more. We need to allow our members to have the access that they need to their land."

Chopaka Bridge Beach, located on Lower Similkameen Indian Band land, draws many tourists each summer. (Submitted by Keith Crow)

Crow said his council is following the same route as the Westbank First Nation, which has a private beach for members only

The local RCMP detachment is aware of the closure, and the LSIB's community police officer can step in to help with enforcement. However, Crow said members are politely asking non-members to leave and explaining the closure. 

"So far it's been OK," he said. 

"I haven't had any negative feedback from my members, but some local people who've been using the beach for many years are not happy. There are lots of other beaches they can access in this area and I'm hoping that they can go to those instead."

Chief and council will be looking at the possibility of closing the beach to the general public permanently. 

Crow estimates that decision will be made within the year. 

"We've put a lot of money into this little park in the last few years, put a new playground in, some new basketball courts. I want my members to utilize it."

With files from Daybreak South