More than half of Canada’s national parks including Banff in Alberta, Pacific Rim in British Columbia and Cape Breton Highlands in Nova Scotia are to reopen next
Minister of Environment Jonathan Wilkinson says 29 of the 48 national parks will reopen for day use on June 1, and there will be access to washrooms.
“It’s an opportunity for folks, particularly those who live reasonably close to national parks, to be able to get out in nature in a manner that can allow physical distancing,’’ he told The Canadian Press.
All national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas have been closed since the end of March to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Wilkinson said parks such as Banff, Jasper and Waterton in Alberta will open day-use areas, trails and roads to visitors.
In Banff, the town and many of its businesses have been preparing for a June 1 reopening.
“This has been devastating for our town that relies solely on tourism as our economy,’’ said Mayor Karen Sorensen, adding it was difficult to ask visitors to stay away. “We wanted to make sure we had protocols in place to make it safe not only for our community, but also for our visitors.’’
The town’s council decided on Monday to close two blocks of its often-crowded main street, Banff Avenue, to vehicles to make more room for pedestrians.
“If … people need to line up to get into one of our businesses on Banff Avenue, there will be space,’’ said Sorensen. “There will be space for some outdoor patio seating and some outdoor retailing opportunities and there will still be space for outdoor pedestrian flow.’’
Banff is the country’s busiest national park, with about four million visitors annually.
Other national parks reopening June 1 include Riding Mountain in Manitoba and Grasslands in Saskatchewan.
By Colette Derworiz
The Canadian Press