Province’s national parks reopen for day use Monday
All five of Alberta’s national parks, and 24 others across the country, will reopen to visitors June 1 in a day-use capacity.
Shuttered to the public since March 25, Banff, Jasper, Waterton Lakes, Elk Island and Wood Buffalo National Parks will accept visitors again starting Monday with dayuse areas, trails and washrooms opening for the first time in more than two months.
“In the short term, our expectation and guidance for day use is that we’re really opening for people who live approximate to the park,” Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said. “For people in Calgary, it’s Banff or Waterton, for people in Edmonton it’s Jasper ... places for local people to go to experience nature and physically distance.”
Beaches, green spaces and some boating and fishing access will also be available in certain parks, and some trails may be converted to one-way.
Visitor centres will remain closed as will camping facilities until at least June 21.
Wilkinson said the ramp-up to reopening has started with Parks Canada staff ensuring the sites did not sustain damage during their closure and to clean the facilities “to a standard consistent with health guidelines.”
In Banff, the Lake Minnewanka loop will be converted to one-way vehicle traffic with the other lane reserved for cyclists, Wilkinson said, adding Parks Canada is considering parking restrictions if visitor numbers increase as the summer goes on.
“This is very much intended to be a positive move toward relaxation as we start to get further along in addressing the virus, and it’s really intended to respond to the need that I think Canadians have to be able to get outside ... but do so in a safe manner,” Wilkinson said.
At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Parks Canada’s Banff field unit superintendent, Dave Mcdonough, said parking is one of the biggest concerns, and education and enforcement around acceptable parking will be among the priorities in the reopening.
“We will be putting additional people on the ground to direct traffic and to prevent people from parking on our roadsides. We do have legal measures we can be putting in ... that restrict parking to designated areas.”
Mcdonough added the Bow Valley Parkway east of Castle junction will remain closed to vehicle traffic to prevent access to the Johnston Canyon site, which is not conducive to social distancing.
Moraine Lake also remains closed due to seasonal restrictions related to a higher-than-normal snow pack and a concern for avalanches in the area.
The Bar U Ranch National Historic Site in Longview, roughly 80 kilometres south of Calgary, will also reopen June 1.
Visitors will have access to the parking lot, the historic site grounds, public washrooms and a new walking trail through the site.