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Parks Canada closes all visitor services across the country to limit COVID-19 spread

Parks Canada is closing all visitor services at national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas across the country to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Closure includes visitor services at parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas

Yoho National Park is pictured in this file photo. Parks Canada is temporarily closing visitor centres across the country in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. (Adam Kealoha Causey/The Associated Press)

Parks Canada is closing all visitor services at national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas across the country to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The closure, which begins midnight Wednesday, will be in effect until further notice and includes washrooms and day-use facilities, Parks Canada said in a release issued Tuesday. 

"We all look forward to resuming normal operations at Parks Canada places, but for now we must follow the advice of public health experts and work together to limit the spread of COVID-19," Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said in the release.

Visitors will still be able to use front country and backcountry areas and green spaces but should check the Parks website first to see safety conditions and look for any closures. Search and rescue services could be limited, Parks said.

Parks staff will limit their work to critical operations, including:

  • Highway management and snow removal.
  • Fire response.
  • Dam operations.
  • Water management on historic waterways.
  • Avalanche forecasting and control.

Private tourism businesses within national parks may continue to operate, but Parks Canada suggests that visitors check with businesses before visiting to confirm there has been no change to their services.

No new reservations for camping or accommodations can be made until April 30, and all existing reservations will be refunded. Parks Canada said it's also working on an approach to honour passes in light of travel restrictions and closures. 

In Alberta, the province strongly encouraged all ski hills to close by end of day Tuesday.

Karen Sorensen, mayor of the Town of Banff, which is inside Banff National Park, declared a state of local emergency Tuesday.

"I support Parks Canada in their decision, I think it's the right decision in terms of supporting social distancing," she said.

"National parks, including Banff National Park, will stay open … if people are in their private vehicles and coming out, if you are self-isolating, going for a cross-country ski is still an option and maybe one of the most refreshing self-isolation practices that you could do."

There are now more than 450 cases of COVID-19 confirmed across Canada.

With files from Anis Heydari

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