B.C. Parks is closing all provincial parks ahead of the long weekend in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, after physical distancing measures in the wilderness failed.
The temporary closure means people should not go to provincial parks until further notice.
In a statement Wednesday, B.C. Minister of Environment George Heyman said the shutdown is difficult but necessary.
“The message is clear: Stay home, avoid travel, do not put yourself or others at risk,” he said.
“I understand and share the love people in British Columbia have for the outdoors and the connection between health and proximity to nature. We tried to provide safe space for people to get some exercise and fresh air in our beautiful parks. But it has proven too challenging to maintain safe distance between visitors.”
The decision to close the park system is informed by continued feedback from RCMP, local government, First Nations, local search-and-rescue organizations and the public, according to the ministry.
Heyman said many people are observing the physical distancing requirements set by the provincial health officer, but some continue to ignore the order, making enforcement in a wilderness setting challenging.
The timing of this decision is important given the upcoming long weekend and the beginning of the busy season for outdoor recreation and camping, he added.
B.C. Parks is also extending the ban on all camping in provincial parks until May 31, and refunds will be given.