Prov­ince’s na­tional parks re­open for day use Mon­day

Calgary Herald - - CITY+REGION - OLIVIA CONDON

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.

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